Who said what at today’s Broadford Bridge planning meeting?

Councillors in West Sussex have unanimously approved planning permission for another year at the oil exploration site at Broadford Bridge near Billingshurst. (Breaking news)

This allows the site operator, Kimmeridge Oil and Gas (KOGL), to assess the rate and volume of oil in a well drilled earlier this summer.  KOGL is a wholly-owned subsidary of UK Oil and Gas (UKOG).

The council’s planning committee heard presentations from opponents of the scheme and supporters. This post reports on the arguments for and against the application.


Sue Jameson, for Broadford Bridge Action Group

bb 170809 postcard hand-in 5

Actor Sue Jameson told the committee she had lived in the Weald for 40 years. She said she represented the genuine concerns of “a huge number of local residents” and two parish councils whose views had not been properly reflected in the planning officers’ recommendation.

“Nearly 400 largely local objectors believe “insufficient evidence has been sought, and regulatory conditions have not been monitored effectively to minimise local impact from this extension”.

She said the planning report had said the number of vehicles required was insignificant. But local people had seen no evidence of an updated survey of road conditions, volume of HGVs or speeding incidents.

A survey by Broadford Bridge Action Group found there had been a 68% rise in the number of larger HGVs compared with two years, representing 73 large HGVs on the road in one day. The recommendation to approve the application had been based on accepting the original forecast of just two more HGVs daily – a huge underestimate, she said.

Ms Jameson said West Chiltington and Billingshurst parish councils had asked for speed limits on the B2133 but these have not been considered. Nor has a request from West Chiltington for daylight-only operation.

She asked whether West Sussex Highways department had checked when, in response to an unpleasant smell on the road, UKOG informed the parish council it was “dirty water” from a contractor’s kitchen unit being removed from the site.

She also said there were reported breaches of working hours at the Broadford Bridge site, with Sunday working in August, people using the site outside designated weekday hours and people woken at 4am by lights, workmen and machinery.

The company had said the drilling would be in operation for 28 days but it had continued for 104, she said

“We, the residents believe the impacts will continue to be unacceptable if this extension is approved.

“We believe our lives and the environment will be impacted significantly and that you have not gathered enough evidence to assess full impact of this operation.”

Link to video of presentation

jim kelsey2

Jim Kelsey. Picture DrillOrDrop

Jim Kelsey, woodsman for the Stopham estate

Mr Kelsey said the council had a responsibility under strategic objective 10 of the Draft Minerals plan to safeguard water resources from contamination.  Policy M16 also required the council to ensure mineral development does not cause unacceptable risk to quality and quantity of water resources.

The decision to drill the Kimmeridge limestone rather than deeper sandstones was material because it increased the risk to water quality and contamination, which the council has a duty to guard against, he said.

He told the meeting:

“Only a day after the rig was disconnected last week, ditches that had, up until then, been full with water were dry, and the level of water in a well over half a mile away from the site had dropped by almost five feet. This was after 3 days of rain. An obvious conclusion is that there is a rapid and open connection between the oil well and the surface water over half a mile away. The spring that had run completely dry usually drains into the River Arun.”

He said local people had been monitoring at six other sites and had found that groundwater had dropped to similar levels.

Mr Kelsey added:

“We have a seemingly open fault, the pressure to provide the hydraulic head, and short distances for the pollution to travel. If this is the case, further work at the site is unacceptable and should be stopped.”

He said the acidising mixture given by UKOG (85% water, 15% hcl and 3-5% inhibitors) didn’t add up to 100% and some of the chemicals listed were said to be carcinogenic and others fatal to aquatic life. He said:

“At our own expense, [we have] completed a set of professional baseline water tests and will continue these tests using spectroscopic analysis to understand changes to the content of the ground and surface water. This should not be our responsibility.”

The group is monitoring over 40 sites, including boreholes, ditches, wells and rivers, with cooperation of 20 landowners and tenants, he said.

“We have already noted salinity is gradually rising over the drilling zone and to the east and west of this area – a potential sign of deeper groundwater entering springs at the surface.

“The washout which forced UKOG to drill their sidetrack should be setting off many alarm bells. But we have no idea what alarm systems are in place.”

He described the Broadford Bridge site as experimental not exploratory.

“We believe it is a fishing trip posing huge potential risks for us all.

“To do your legal and moral duty to residents and taxpayers we ask you to refuse this extension.”

Link to video of presentation

Dr Roger Smith, trustee of Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE)

Dr Smith criticised the application for relying on an environmental statement submitted in 2012, which in turn used the results of ecological surveys carried out in 2011.

He said information in the environmental statement was inaccurate and misleading. When considering the damage which might be caused by a contaminated run-off from the site, the environmental statement said there were no protected areas within 10km of the site, and therefore the effect could be classified as negligible. But Dr Smith said there were Special Sites of Scientific Interest, Special Protected Areas and a designated RAMSAR site (wetland of international importance), all within 10km of the drill site.

This oversight, said Dr Smith, called into question the quality and reliability of other information supporting the application.

The application said there were no neighbouring trees or hedges which might influence the development or might be important to the local landscape.  In reality, said Dr Smith, the site was surrounded by ancient woodland and adjacent to hedges.

The application also claimed that the drill site was not within 1 km of any area designated for nature conservation and therefore of low ecological value.  However the ancient woodland is within 1km of the site, he said.

Dr Smith argued that the original environmental statement assumed that works would be completed between October and February, and that any resulting impacts would be temporary.  Consequently the effect of extended operations on species such as bats and birds had not been assessed.

Dr Smith argued that up-to-date surveys were required and urged the council to refuse the application.


Nigel Moore, Zetland Group, agent for the applicant

Mr Moore, who is responsible for planning compliance at the Broadford Bridge site welcomed the planners’ report.

“This is an application to extend the life of a temporary planning consent for a further 12 months.  No new or further work is planned.  It is simply that more time is required due to a later than expected start date to drilling”

Mr Moore argued that the proposal complied with the development plan, which called for sites which presented the best environmental option for oil exploration.  Seven alternative sites had been considered.  Broadford Bridge was selected because: it was remote from environmental and built heritage assets; transport effects would be imperceptible and effects on amenity would be minimal.  The extension proposal would not change any of these outcomes.

Finally Mr Moore pointed out that the Minerals Plan encouraged exploration because of the country’s increasing reliance on oil and gas imports.

“The site presents precisely the type of exploration activity envisaged by local and national planning policies.”

Matt Cartwright, Chief Operating Officer for Kimmeridge Oil and Gas Investments

Mr Cartwright stated that there had only been 7 months of operational activity on the site out of the 36 months agreed in the original planning consent.  The activity had covered site construction and drilling.  Phase 3 (flow testing) and Phase 4 (restoration) would be as in the original application.

The company had a good relationship with compliance officers from the council, who had made two site visits with no issues to report, he said.

The company kept in contact with regulators, as they wanted the site to be in full compliance.  And the company was a good neighbour, welcoming over 200 people to the site to see operations for themselves.

KOGL intended to share future revenues if the site should ever get to production, paying a local royalty and business rates, he said.  The company was also investigating whether possible future production could be exported from the site by pipeline and rail.

Stephen Sanderson Chief Executive, UKOGStephen Sanderson2

Mr Sanderson, from KOGL’s parent company, UK Oil and Gas, thanked the planning committee for a very thorough and balanced report.

He described Kimmeridge Oil and Gas as a locally-based company, employing many local residents and as committed to safeguarding local environment as any of their detractors.

He cited the decision to use British-made, non-toxic bio-degradeable drilling fluid, claiming that this ensured wells were drilled to the same or better standards than drinking water wells in chalk and limestone aquifers.

Mr Sanderson said the company had a “strong and compliant relationship” with regulators, particularly the Environment Agency, who had made six snap visits to the site and found the operation “fully compliant in all areas”.

The public engagement team had explained the operation and environmental practices to over 200 visitors.

“hopefully dispelling the many and unsubstantiated myths and general scaremongering promulgated by a small but vocal minority, and crucially demonstrating that we strive to be good neighbours, are open and transparent and are at the forefront of industry best practices and environmental safeguards”.

Mr Sanderson described his company as “not only environmentally-respectful but also pragmatists”, arguing that the country needed oil for feedstocks, plastics and transport fuel.

He suggested there was a “significant wider aspect” for the committee to consider:

“The well results today provide proof of our geological concept – that Broadford Bridge and the Horse Hill oil discovery, some 30 kilometres apart, lie within the same regionally extensive and nationally significant oil accumulation, the first of its kind recognised in the UK.”

Given declining North Sea output, Mr Sanderson argued that the volume of oil which could be potentially extracted from this deposit was of national significance, and could bring substantial tax payments and revenue to the local area from proposed community royalty payments.

Councillors and officers

Pat Arculus, local County Councillor for Broadford Bridge pat_arculus

Cllr Arculus described the application as an emotional subject which had caused a lot of confusion.  She said many people felt they were caught between two extremes: not trusting the oil industry but then seeing environmentalists who don’t want any oil drilling at all.

She said this left people to think “What’s in the middle?  If we do need this, who is ensuring that it’s safe?”

“There are so many different agencies involved and they all have their own responsibility, and I don’t think that’s fully understood by the general public on knowing who does what and who makes what decision”.

She called on the council to carry out monitoring for which it was responsible, “properly and with a full ability”, and for planners to clarify which issues could be considered in each application.  Many people had raised with her whether we should be drilling for oil at all, but this was an issue for government, not the council.

Cllr Arculus said she knew residents who thought that we do need to explore for oil, and as the drilling had already taken place you might as well finish the testing and find out whether or not it’s viable.  There was a feeling of going into “no man’s land” if the extension was refused, she said.  There would presumably have to be some sort of extension, just to do the site restoration.

Cllr Arculus called on people to trust the regulators because otherwise there would be “real concern over the whole way the country was run”.

Chris Bartlett, Principal Planning Officer

He clarified that the application was simply a time extension with no permission for new works.

On groundwater, the local plan was taken into account and the Environment Agency were consulted.

Chemicals used during drilling are not an issue for the planning authority, but were addressed through the environmental permit.

Jane Moseley County Team Planning Manager

She replied that the County ecologist had looked at issues raised by CPRE and had no concerns over the impact on ecology.  English Nature also had no objections.

Members of the Planning Committee were then asked for comments.


Cllr Andrew Barret Miles

He asked what would happen if the application were refused

Jane Moseley replied that the company would be required to restore the site.  An enforcement notice could be used to set out the steps needed for restoration

Cllr Barret Miles said that most visual impacts had now disappeared with the departure of the rig and he had heard nothing today to suggest they should not approve this application.


Cllr Nigel Jupp

He asked about environmental studies not being updated since 2011 and 2012.

Chris Bartlett replied that the county ecologist believed it would not be proportionate to request repeat ecological surveys at this stage.  Because works were not being done outside the site, the impact on the ecology would be insignificant.

simon_oakleyCllr Simon Oakley

He asked for a condition on the use of lighting on the site and asked what could be done to improve the landscaping of the access track.

Chris Bartlett said the landscape officer had expected new planting along the access track to take better than it had.  There was a five-year maintenance plan attached to the planting scheme, so there was scope to push for better results.

brian_quinnCllr Brian Quinn

He asked how many of the consultation responses supporting the application were from local people.

Chris Bartlett replied that where contributions come from is not the point of the exercise – it’s the material point they make that is taken into account


Cllr Bill Acraman

He said that the oil company over the years had “shotbill_acraman themselves fairly significantly in the foot”.  They had three years of planning permission and had sat on their hands for most of that time.  If they had got on with it, they wouldn’t be here today, he said.

Cllr Acraman then referred to Jim Kelsey’s presentation and the potential for pollution of the river Arun.  What was the officers’ reaction?

Jane Moseley replied that the Environment Agency considered the main risks involved surface operations, which were the closest to the aquifer.  Runoff was contained by an impermeable membrane and remained on the site.  HSE checked for leaks during the drilling stage to ensure nothing could leak into the water resources.

“I think we should be re-assured that impacts on the water environment have been checked and are acceptable”

Ms Mosely said that subsiding levels in the water sources were a matter for the Environment Agency and were carefully checked and controlled.

Cllr Acraman replied that this was “not a terribly good answer”, but you couldn’t expect planning officers to give expert opinions on Environment Agency matters.

“I don’t think she answered his [Jim Kelsey’s] concerns which were reflected in my question.  Maybe she can’t”

Jane Moseley responded that “the key point is that you are supposed to rely on Environment Agency expertise”.

“Government guidance is very specific on this.  They say the Environment Agency has responsibility for ensuring the risk to groundwater is appropriately identified and mitigated…We are required to check with them that it is satisfactorily covered, which we have done.”

Ms Moseley went on to say that “all sorts of these issues” had been raised during the application and consultation process and they had had comments from the Environment Agency “directly into response to those questions… Those particular queries have been answered by the Environment Agency”.

Cllr Liz Kitchen

Cllr Kitchen asked there was any emergency plan for the site?  She also noted that liz_kitchenseemed to be a difference of opinion on liaising with local residents and asked if there was a liaison panel?

Chris Bartlett stated that the emergency plan was not a matter for the planning authority, but rather for the HSE.

A liaison group was not considered necessary for the original application and is not considered necessary for this application as it is only for twelve months.

duncan_crowCllr Duncan Crow, committee chair

Cllr Crow asked about traffic movements outside allocated working times

Jane Moseley answered that they had received allegations of traffic movements and operations out-of-hours and this was a matter of proper enforcement of conditions.

Cllr Oakley said that people monitoring water levels needed to take into account seasonal variations in natural groundwater conditions.

The committee agreed to attach an extra condition on lighting, stating that a lighting scheme should be submitted within one month, controlling light spill from the site and with the aim of minimising effect on neighbouring wildlife.

The recommendation to extend planning permission for Broadford Bridge was passed unanimously by the committee.

Reporting on this meeting was made possible by the individual donations of DrillOrDrop readers

Categories: Regulation

19 replies »

    • Thank you Paul and DRILL OR DROP for a very revealing and detailed account of the proceedings, it appears we are in “interesting times”.
      Much may pivot on such reports, if only as an academic and sociological record of “how we got to there from here” when the questions are asked by our children and future generations.
      “What did you do in the war against free speech and action daddy?” may be the apt question.

  1. Having been to the site 5 times. The ditches oposite the entrance were empty/dry on every occasion even in the occasion that the police and protestors cars had turned the verge into a muddy mess, I even took photos of the cans and litter left by the protestors. So the claim that the ditches were full of water seam to be fake news. Obviously he did say that in the planning meeting but the record needs to be set streight.

    • Please provide proof that the protesters left the cans and litter, and that it was not the usual detritus one finds along any highway by motorists or even by the operators themselves?

    • The meeting was held on September 12th 2017 pee…..errr…. Mrs M,
      That makes that comment to be fake news doesn’t it?.

        • Your opinion, precisely, my opinion is that it is not old news, the report is precise, detailed and highly revealing and reported on 12th September 2017, hardly old then is it?
          I could tell you of S.O. history of fuelling german submarines in mid Atlantic throughout the 2nd world war and supplying leaded supplements without which the german war effort would have ground to a halt many years before it did, and the industry use of nuclear bombs to frack gas, only to find that no one wanted radioactive gas, and the industries efforts to subsequently destabilise and overturn regimes that were no longer compliant to the ohandgee monopolies right to this day, if you wish? Oh, I see I all ready have?
          That may be old news, but highly relevant… my opinion…..of course.

          • Standard Oil ceased trading in 1911, so it would have been a bit difficult for them to provide oil to German submarines in WW2…

            As for the experiment, it was the US Govt that instigated and performed the experiment and it was for oil, not gas. The oil industry wanted nothing to do with the experiment, because they thought it as a dumb idea (which it was), that any oil produced would be contaminated by radiation (which it was) and they didn’t want to deal with the radio-active oil.

            The oil industry did some things decades ago which I’m not proud of, but to claim that it’s a monopoly and trying to destabilse and overturn regimes to this day is absurd.

            • S.O. ESSO, ,get it? They have gone through many incarnations since.
              They were hauled to court by FDR via the FBI to answer for refueling German submarines in mid atlantic, and told to stop or else, so they moved production and distribution to the middle east and continued to supply ALL sides throughout the 2nd WW. Look it up.
              Sorry injuneer, but S.O. ESSO/incarnations were guilty on all counts, look it up if you don’t believe me.
              As for nuclear fracking that was proposed by the industry and as far as we know, two test bombs were used, presumably the government involvement was because they owned the weapons, but it was still carried out under the auspices of the industry. I suppose it gave a sort of insane legitimacy for nuclear testing.
              You really should look with open eyes at the history of fracking, I did, and it isn’t too pretty.

              Yes there were and are the efforts across the world to destabilise regimes and overturn them. That was stated ten years prior to 9/11 which gave again a sort of insane legitimacy to invade and counter so called terrorism. Even when it is easily proved that Mossad and Saudi interests organised it all along, some say with G.W.Bush’s somewhat dumb compliance. That was because successive supported regimes wanted to move from the petro dollar to a gold standard (there is that phrase again) non USA participation petro currency thereby cutting out the USA petrodollar banks vast income, and that would have collapsed the all ready unstable and over extended currency, as it is again now.
              Iraq, Libya, and now Iran are targets, African puppet states, other regimes were initially supported and then overthrown into chaos to destabilise the world situation and enabled power base’s to be set up with terrorism and to further destabilise targetted states.
              What do you think Syria is about? Freedom from tyranny? Then how come USA and UK and related states bomb civilian hospitals and promote terrorism, so called freedom fighters of course, throughout the conflict zones.
              Don’t take my word for any of this, look it up yourself.

              We all have to wake up sometime, it might as well be now.

  2. what rubbish to say the groundwater has dropped significantly due to the oil well !!. Where the hell has the water gone? ..its not like pulling out a plug in the bath !!! Total rubbish. !
    Has for smells ..what about when farmers spread manure on the fields ..this lasts for days !

  3. I am curious about Mr. Kelseys comments on the water level.

    I know that what he is suggesting as a mechanism is not feasible (I don’t expect you to take my word for it, as I work for the Oil Industry, but I have been doing this sort of thing for over 30 years, so, no it’s not feasible). But since they have the baseline study, why don’t they give what the water levels were this time last year as a comparison, to show it’s not a seasonal variation? Or do the same with the salinity levels in the other area either?

    With respect to the ‘not adding up to 100%’ comment, he is making a very common mistake regarding the HCL Concentration. As provided to the Well Pad, it will be “15% HCL” in liquid form – in other words, 15% HCL in a water solution. It’s provided in this form to reduce transportation and storage costs, but the pH is too low to use, so it’s diluted further when actually being added to the acid wash mix.

    As for the comment that some of the chemicals are ‘said to be carcinogenic’ and harmful to aquatic life, I seriously doubt it – but if they are, then we are all in trouble because they are the same chemicals the Water Companies use when drilling water wells and – on those in chalk or limestone – need acid washes as well.

  4. Some will understand the science you post Injuneer, others will not. However, even some who do will ignore because they are the sites “fluffers” and they see their role to keep the cast excited. If you find it hard to believe, just see who posts, and what they post, during a period where all has gone quiet. But don’t let it grind you down-that is also part of the process.
    Providing such advice may not get through the editing process-it is difficult to calculate that, but remember DOD is INDEPENDENT not NEUTRAL, so such things are to be expected. That is not intended to be criticism, it is just clarification.

      • Looks like “Come to the Dark Side injuneer”?

        If you accept the corporate blinkers, there is no way back, perhaps keep an open mind, or forever refuse to see anything that contradicts industry prejudice.

        The universe is a big place, anything is possible, nothing we know is certain, nothing is fixed, the possibilities are endless, don’t throw that away for a comfortable handful of dust.

        You are free to make your own choice, but don’t expect anything other than ever more limiting cognitive restraints if you accept the blinkered view.

          • Being told you are on the dark side and actually being there are two different things, I wouldn’t bother about what people say, i don’t, that is their problem not yours, or mine. It’s what you do and why you do it, that really matters. I ceased to be what others expect of me and that was the first hurdle.
            There are those who will say it’s all meaningless and it’s everyone for themselves, that way leads to the worst a human is capable of.
            So is it mere survival or can we evolve into something better? I say evolve, but then it’s the real kicker, how?
            We are all programed by our upbringing and our experience. But we can change the program.
            It takes around six months to change the synapse pathways in the brain, so it’s possible to reprogram old behaviours into new pathways, then it becomes automatic. Do that for long enough and the old mistakes get fewer and new possibilities open up, and so on.
            Steel shutters in the mind are too limiting in a universe of infinite possibility, I keep my mind open and I avoid steel shutters of old behaviours.
            That’s it really, easy to say and hard to do, which is as it should be.

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