Council officers are investigating complaints of Sunday working at the Broadford Bridge oil exploration site in West Sussex.
Residents reported operations at the site near Billingshurst on the past two Sundays, allegedly in breach of the planning permission. They said they saw a crane head moving above the trees and heard sounds from moving vehicles and machinery. Similar complaints were made in August.
A condition of the planning permission for Broadford Bridge restricts work to Monday-Friday and Saturday morning, except during the 24-hour drilling phase which is now over. The reason given for the condition is to “protect the amenities of occupiers of nearby residential properties.”
A spokesperson for West Sussex County Council confirmed there had been four complaints about working on the site on 22 and 29 October 2017. The spokesperson said:
“WSCC is investigating the complaints and will determine how to proceed once we have further details.”
Drone footage of Broadford Bridge site, 29 October 2017, showing crane head rise. Video: Weald Oil Watch
“Safety management reasons”
UK Oil & Gas Investments plc, the parent company of the site operator, told DrillOrDrop:
“We have reviewed our activity on site at Broadford Bridge on Sunday October 22 and Sunday October 29.
“On October 22 we were finishing off an operation which had begun a few days earlier and needed to be completed for well safety reasons. The crane was in use and we can confirm that noise levels were extremely low.
“On October 29 we were in the middle of some well intervention work which had also been started prior to the Sunday and needed to be finished for safety management reasons. Again, noise levels were very low.
“We have been in very regular communication with West Sussex County Council. They are fully aware of our activities.”
When asked about the safety issues, the spokesperson said:
“They were simply ongoing activities which could not be suddenly terminated without detriment to our health and safety standards.”
“Mockery of conditions”
Broadford Bridge Action Group, which has campaigned against activities at the site, said:
“UKOG openly admits to working out of permitted operating hours because there is no penalty for them doing so.
“This makes a mockery of the conditions of operation and further confirms that the regulatory authorities are not fully regulating activities on site.
“Their relationship is far too cosy and that’s not in the interests of local taxpayers.”
After the complaints in August, West Sussex County Council told residents the matter had been investigated and there had been no significant or long-term harm.
The council said it would “overcome matters” without taking formal action if that was possible. The authority said it would not prioritise what it called “technical breaches” that it did not regard had caused harm.