Regulation

Live updates: Councillors approve Cuadrilla oil testing plans at Balcombe

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Opponents gathering outside West Sussex County Council this morning. Photo: Friends of the Earth

Live updates from West Sussex County Council planning meeting to discuss Cuadrilla’s planning application to test its oil well at Balcombe.

Council planners have recommended approval, despite more than 2,700 objections. The meeting, at county hall in Chichester, will hear opposition to the scheme from Balcombe villagers and a member of the parish council. Matt Lambert, Cuadrilla’s director of government and public affairs, will speak in favour of the application.


12.18pm: Vote

The committee votes unanimously in favour of application

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Vote at West Sussex County Council planning meeting, 9 January 2018. Photo: DrillOrDrop


11.59am: Discussion on conditions

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Cllr Simon Oakley (with computer), 9 January 2018. Photo: Jono O’Houston

Cllr Simon Oakley calls for changes to proposed conditions.

Lighting: He  asks for continuous monitoring of light levels at the site perimeter. Members support the change unanimously

Location of noise monitors: Cllr Oakley asks for noise levels should be determined at Kemp’s Farm. Members support the change to this condition unanimously

Noise monitoring: Cllr Oakley asks for noise levels to be monitored continuously and results to be sent to the county council weekly or upon request. Members support the change to this condition unanimously.

Traffic management plan: Cllr Oakley asks for HGVs to avoid travelling past the primary school at 15 minutes before and 30 minutes after pick-up and drop-off times. Jane Moseley said this was prescriptive. A more flexible wording would allow after school clubs could be taken into account, she says. Cllr Andrew Barrett-Miles says the traffic management plan should be prescriptive. Cllr Oakley said deliveries at the start of the school day should be prescriptive. The traffic management plan should take account of the views raised. The condition is not changed.

Local liaison group: Cllr Oakley says a condition in 2014 should be included. Members support the change to this condition unanimously.

Capacity of liquid storage: Cllr Oakley says there needs to be enough storage capacity.

Acidisation: Cllr Oakley says the committee has no control over the use of acid at the well. Who would monitor any change in the use of acid, the volume of liquid and impact on HGV movements,he asks. Jane Moseley says an environmental permit would be needed if the acid was squeezed into the rocks. She says there is a no fracking condition. Cllr Oakley suggests the condition should be extended to include a squeeze. Jane Moseley says this would be beyond the planning regime. A new planning application would be needed on acid fracking.


11.58am: Committee discussion – Cllr Janet Duncton

Cllr Duncton supports the liaison group and supports the application.


Liz Kitchen11.56am: Committee discussion – Cllr Liz Kitchen

Cllr Kitchen supports a local liaison group. They are an incredible help to both sides. She also says the requests from the parish council are fair and reasonable. In a response to a question about noise, Chris Bartlett says there will noise from the flare, the pumps and general industrial noises. The noise conditions will deal with the noise impacts.

People in the public gallery ask “how exactly”.

Cllr Kitchen asks if the flare will make a noise. Yes, says Chris Bartlett.


11.38am: Committee discussion – Cllr Simon Oakley

Simon OakleyCllr Oakley refers to the Egdon dismissed appeal, issued last week. The dismissal was on specific grounds and did not apply to Balcombe.

On reliance on the other permitting regimes, Cllr Oakley says guidance states that planning committees should have reliance, rather than “must” have reliance. It is legitimate for us to examine the quality of the evidence put before us to see there are site-specific reasons to risk the environment, he says. There is no evidence that there is a risk. But it should be mitigated, he says.

On the site visit last week, Cllr Oakley says the surface ponding is very noticeable, he says. He asks for reassurance that sufficient mediation of construction of the pad will ensure there is sufficient capacity to prevent off-site flows. He is concerned about the coincidence of a spill with heavy rainfall. He asks whether there are abstraction points on the River Ouse that could be affected by activities on the site.

Chris Bartlett says any liquid spilt on the pad will be contained by the impermeable membrane. We are content that the surface water arrangements can be adequately dealt with.

Cllr Oakely asks about public visibility about discharge of conditions on surface water. Mr Bartlett says there is none. He agrees that the detail of the scheme would not be subject to scrutiny by the public before the condition is discharged. There is no public consultation. Planning manager, Jane Moseley, says there is never public consultation on the condition discharges.

“The level of details that is required in these conditions is such that we wouldn’t expect members of the public would understand.

[Laughter from the audience]

“It is incredibly detailed. They understand it but we are asking for a professional view from a professional.”

Cllr Oakley says there will be insufficient impact on the landscape and on  roads from lorries to warrant refusal.

On flaring, Cllr Oakley asks why there is no condition on air quality, when these conditions are applied to quarries and aggregate sites. Jane Moseley says planning guidance differentiates between oil and gas sites to other sites. Air quality is left to the Environment Agency. We have to be satisfied that other regulators are doing their jobs. We have exchanges with them and we are satisfied that they are doing their jobs.

Cllr Oakley asks about the mismatch between the length of the application and the exploration licence, which expires in June 2019. He also asks what would happen if the landowners could not  pay for any restoration. Chris Bartlett says the exploration licence is not directly related to planning decisions.

On conditions, Cllr Oakley says there were amendments to conditions in 2014. They have not been carried forward to this application, he says. He asks why this is. Jane Moseley says a liaison group was not considered appropriate. The other amendments were not considered appropriate, she says.

Cllr Oakley proposes a liaison group, stronger lighting and ecology conditions and  returning 2014 conditions on HGV travel past Balcombe primary school. He also calls for monitoring to be carried out at Kemps Farm.


11.36am: Committee discussion – Cllr Nigel Jupp

nigel_juppCllr Jupp asks how flare noise would compare with the noise from the railway. He asks whether there have been objections from the nearest homes. Chris Bartlett says he can’t say.

Cllr Jupp asks whether the decision is with the land or the operator. Chris Bartlett says it goes with the land. Cllr Atkins supports a liaison committee and supports controls on vehicles during pick-up and drop-off times.

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Cllr Quinn


11.34am: Committee discussion – Cllr Brian Quinn

Cllr Quinn supports Cllr Barrett-Miles’ recommendations on extra conditions


11.30am: Committee discussion – Cllr Andrew-Barrett Miles

Andrew Barrett-Miles

Cllr Barrett-Miles

Cllr Barrett-Miles asks for confirmation about the need for the council to rely on the Environment Agency. Ms Moseley, the planning manager, says there is an emission plan in place on monitoring the flare. It is all in place through the Environment Agency and take comfort from that, she says.

Cllr Barrett-Miles says we have to trust the EA and HSE. He says he is concerned about deliveries during school drop-off/pick-up. These should be specifically mentioned. Traffic would not have a material impact. The various wood burners would have more impact,he suggests.

Cllr Barrett-Miles says a liaison group needs to be established and he recommends this should be included in the conditions.

Sending HGVs south to Cuckfield would be a very bad idea, he suggests in response to proposals from Balcombe residents. I support the highways recommendation on routing through Balcombe, he says.

It is in the AONB, he says, but it is a small, well-screened site and the impact will be negligible. Subject to the changes, I would support the application, he says.


11.26am: Committee discussion – Cllr George Barton

Cllr george_bartonCllr Barton asks if the process proposed is regarded as acid fracking. Chris Bartlett says the council does not consider it to be acid fracking and is standard for the industry.

Cllr Barton says the report mentions further wells may be necessary – how many and where. I see them as relevant, he says. Chris Bartlett says Cuadrilla will use the existing borehole. Any new drilling would be a further application.

Cllr Barton asks what plans does Cuadrilla have for air quality monitoring and what independent monitoring would be carried out. Mr Bartlett says this is for the Environment Agency. Jane Moseley says

“We have to assume the Environment Agency will do its job. This was shown at judicial review to be the appropriate approach.”

Cllr Barton asks about plans for a liaison group. Mr Bartlett says a liaison group has not been proposed and the council does not consider it necessary.


11.24am: Planning manager on appeal decision

Planning manager, Jane Moseley, refers to the appeal decision for the Wressle site. She says planners discussed the appeal and decided the cases are sufficiently different. The decision on the Balcombe application stands, she says.


11.21am: Planning Officer on issues raised

Flare Chris Bartlett says emissions from the flare will be for the Environment Agency to look at and a permit was in place.

Southern HGV route Mr Bartlett says the proposed route is appropriate

Bond This application doesn’t fall into the category when a bond is appropriate

Liaison group This isn’t necessary for six months

Drinking water The site is not in a groundwater protection area and there are no abstractions within 3km and the EA has not objected.

Landscape The site in the AONB has been taken into account


11.18am: Speakers for the application – George Cramp, Balcombe resident

Mr Cramp says:

“The planning application is to grant temporary permission to test flow hydrocarbons from the well that is already bored at the lower Stumble exploration site.

This test I understand is to evaluate the likely volume and quality of the hydrocarbons. The test is essential it will help Cuadrilla who are the explorers to decide if the well is likely to be profitable or lead to abandonment.

I live in Balcombe and not far from the well head, in a previous test conducted by the original company apart from the flame it caused no problem to anyone. The noise level is minimum and the pollution will be insignificant.

The Oil age is not over and may not be for many years to come we all know solar, wind and marine energy will develop but one industry local to us may need oil for much longer and this is the aircraft industry on which many local jobs are dependant.

If this application fails it could lead to others like it failing. In quite a short space of time it would lead to increasing oil and gas imports causing more world pollution as it is transported huge distances and further damage our balance of payments which with Brexit is of national importance. Also which many people overlook when the oil and gas are gone they are gone the area can return to forest the birds and animals will return or you can build houses this may only be twenty five years away.

This planning application if granted will lead to a test paid for by a private company which if successful may lead to a very profitable development which will all be private money generating wealth for Britain from which we shall all benefit. I support the application I have no financial interest in Cuadrilla or any company involved in the development and I have not been paid by anyone to give my views on the planning application. I would further point out the very sad loss of life caused by the accident in the South China Sea will be avoided if we use our own home produced oil.


11.12am Speakers for the application – Rodney Jago, Balcombe resident

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Balcombe resident, Rodney Jago, 9 January 2018. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Mr Jago says:

I have lived in Balcombe for over 20 years. I have no interest to declare in the Applicant or the owners of Lower Stubble.

I need not tell this committee that every service provided by national & local government faces severe financial pressure, including Balcombe school, while the nation is passing on to future generations a huge & ever increasing National debt.

In the circumstances we should surely all welcome investment which may contribute, even in a small way, to the National & Local tax base & in this case to our balance of payments & energy security.

When drilling last took place near Balcombe there was absolutely no damage to the environment or amenities of the village, indeed few residents would have even noticed it had it not been for the antics of protesters. Not one household suffered anything like the disturbance many of us have to endure when our neighbours build extensions. Not one!

To check on experience elsewhere I posted the following on the notorious Drill or Drop web-site ; Quote  “ Can anyone provide information on ANY damage to communities near UK drilling sites in the past 10 years (excluding the disruption caused by protest mobs?”      Apart from the usual abuse not one example of damage was offered.

So what about the environment more generally?

The fact is that however rapidly renewable energy advances our nation will require SOME oil & gas for many years to come.  The energy will be produced somewhere. We can boost foreign economies or support our own. In eliminating transport local production is better for the environment.

Returning to Balcombe, much has been misleadingly claimed about the attitude of the local community but contrary to appearances I am not alone. When a much quoted poll was held in Balcombe it is true that 536 voters or just 35 % of eligible voters opposed drilling but there were 309 votes in support.

Now you may think it reasonable to assume that those in support had considered & rejected the more outlandish warnings of earthquakes, self-igniting tap  water,  crashing property values, etc BUT they & many others must surely must have noted the overt threat that approval would bring back mobs of protesters. But these 300 odd voters nevertheless put their country’s interests before their own personal convenience. I leave you to decide which votes deserve to carry the more weight.

Provided the Committee are satisfied with the proposed safety & monitoring procedures I urge you to approve the application but also;

  • To address genuine fears in the community by publishing clear & concise reasons for your approval & explaining provisions for safety & monitoring,
  • To ensure that the police have the authority to keep  protests truly peaceful & to prohibit ANY road blocking & interference with the legal activities of the drillers, our farmers or the public at large. This is a big ask but, just as it is wrong that planning decisions be influenced either way by threats of disruption it is also wrong that Balcombe residents should again suffer the unruly protests of recent years.
  • Finally, to do what Balcombe Parish Council should be doing & appeal vigorously to the Applicant & the land owners for  meaningful donations to the community, perhaps starting with Balcombe School.

11.07am: Speakers for  the application – Matt Lambert, Director of government affairs, Cuadrilla

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Cuadrilla director, Matt Lambert, 9 January 2018. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Mr Lambert says:

I am speaking today in support of this application for a temporary two-year planning permission to flow test and monitor the pressure in the existing borehole at Lower Stumble before plugging the well with cement and fully restoring the site. The proposed operations are the same scope of works as the previous application granted bythe Committee in 2014 and do not involve hydraulic fracturing as the rock isalready naturally fractured.

The purpose of the application is to establish whether there is potential for commercial extraction in the future. Should this be the case, a further application would be required for production.

The principle of hydrocarbon exploration has already been established at Lower Stumble and the Council’s environmental impact screening opinion has concluded that the proposed development is unlikely to generate significant environmental effects and this has been confirmed by independent environmental consultants commissioned by Cuadrilla.

We regret that we were unable to undertake the activity permitted by the previous planning consent. This was due to the steep downturn in the oil market from mid-2014 onwards, requiring the industry to adapt to new market conditions and severely limiting availability of equipment and personnel; and also changes to the environmental permitting requirements which required additional assessment. We are however confident that we are now in a position to undertake the works within the period of the two year temporary planning permission requested.

Exploration for new domestic oil and gas resources is vitally important for economic and also environmental reasons to reduce Britain’s reliance on imports. Since 2000, the UK’s production of energy from all sources has fallen by 57%. In 2015 alone the UK spent £14 billion on net energy imports.

Notwithstanding the growth in renewables and nuclear, for electricity generation, the UK will continue to use gas and oil for many decades, particularly for heating and for transport.

I’d like to comment on some issues raised by consultees. We can confirm that:

  • A Traffic Management Plan will minimise the impact of traffic on the highway including restrictions on HGVs travelling past the Balcombe Primary school during drop-off and pick-up times. The assessment shows that HGV movements will have negligible impact on the local highways network. This is because the average number of two way movements is two a day. The maximum would be 23 but only during the two week flow test period;
  • The hydrochloric acid that will be used for the borehole preparation will be diluted to a concentration of less than 10% and in that form is classed by the Environment Agency as non-hazardous to groundwater. This will be diluted before being transported to the site;
  • The proposed flare will only be used on the site for a period of seven days if natural gas is encountered. The independent air quality modelling has shown that emissions from the well would be negligible.
  • Suggestions that Cuadrilla should be required to take out special indemnities to cover the proposed work are inappropriate. Planning guidance makes clear that restoration bonds should only be sought in exceptional circumstances such as very long-term and novel projects, whereas our proposal is short-term using standard techniques.

The work programme will be robustly regulated by the Environment Agency and other regulators. The site has been monitored for air and water quality and will continue to be so throughout this operation and beyond. An impermeable membrane will capture any liquid including rainwater which will be discharged safely under licence.

In conclusion, the proposed development is important in the context of energy security, has been assessed to have temporary and minimal impacts on the environment and will be conducted in a safe and responsible manner with robust regulatory oversight.

The principle of a hydrocarbon exploration has already been established at this site through the grant of planning permission for a similar development in 2014. In light of this and the evidence presented in the application, we request the Committee to accept the Planning Officer’s recommendation and to grant planning permission.


11.07am: Speakers for the application

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Speakers for the application, from left Balcombe residents, George Cramp and Rodney Jago, and Cuadrilla director, Matt Lambert, 9 January 2018. Photo: Jon O’Houston


11.04am: Speakers against the application – John Scates, Frack Free Residents Association

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John Scates, middle row, right.

I’m sorry that our Councillor, Bill Acraman, can’t be here. But he has emailed a number of Balcombe residents with some very good points.

1)He is concerned about the closeness of the site to the village, in particular the proposed flare. He is not satisfied that the noxious fumes will be minimal – nor even that the flare should be in an AONB at all. We agree

2) He underlines the ‘unproven assertions’ we are asked to rely on regarding groundwater pollution. We agree.

Ardingly reservoir is close to the site and two streams – very close indeed – run into the Ouse which is the source of our drinking water.

3) Bill also notes that many of the objections quite rightly draw attention to the disturbing potential health hazards about which the applicant’s words leave much to be desired. We agree. My neighbours with children are extremely worried.

So many details of this application are imprecise, from the unclear design and size of the proposed new flare to the fact that the Environment Agency has not considered several of the most toxic gases produced.

The EA’s Mining Waste Permit specifically requires monitoring and mitigation of air emissions, yet their response to this application contains no comment on this. Cuadrilla’s application states that there is no need to mitigate any emissions. So there is a glaring inconsistency here. Constant monitoring of the efficiency of the flare – if permitted – is absolutely vital. If efficiency falls below 95% it will start to emit serious amounts of toxins, which will be carried on the prevailing wind to nearby houses and the village.

I would also underline that the High Weald AONB is not only a beautiful area which we should be safeguarding for the future, but it is also an important magnet for tourism.

The position of the Government has changed since 2014, when WSCC permitted Cuadrilla’s last application, having published its ‘Clean Growth Strategy’.

Theresa May has also said: “Clean growth is not an option, but a duty we owe to the next generation, and economic progress has to go hand-in-hand with greater protection of our forests and beaches, clean air and places of outstanding natural beauty.”

You therefore have to consider whether protection of the High Weald is as important as permitting a process which is the first step in producing more fossil fuels.

Your responsibility is a weighty one. The people of Balcombe and West Sussex will hold you responsible, as elected defenders of our health and beautiful countryside.

Instructions from Government have changed since 2014. Your decision on Cuadrilla’s application should also change.

Thank you for listening.


10.57am: Speakers against the application – Helen Savage, Frack Free Residents Association

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Speaker against the application, Helen Savage, 9 January 2018. Photo: DrillorDrop

Ms Savage says she is speaking for Frack Free Balcombe Resident’s Association, and as a parent and teacher at the School, who has lived in Balcombe over a decade.

I would like to make two main points, about Traffic, and Air Quality. Firstly, we are very concerned about the increase in number of HGVs that will pass our school if this application is permitted. The fence separating the school from the B2036 is immediately above an area used as an open classroom, in front of the main school building. So the road down which HGVs pass is 2.1 metres from this outdoor classroom area which is in daily use. The emissions from HGVs are various, and none of them good for health.

Oxides of nitrogen (NOx) are actually heavier than air, and so will roll down from the road into this area, where they will be trapped by the school building if it is a day with no wind.

Particulate matter is very small and easily absorbed into lungs. It’s negative impact on health is well documented.

Carbon monoxide is about the same weight as air, so floats about (unless blown away by wind). Carbon monoxide combines with haemoglobin in the bloodstream and prevents oxygen being transported to all our vital organs. Its effect is cumulative and takes hours to disperse. High doses of carbon monoxide can kill in under five minutes.

So these are the kind of toxins that will be increased in the air where our children play.

Children and older people are more susceptible to toxins of all kinds. If you grant this application, I ask you to ensure that HGVs will not pass the school at times when children are there. Apart from anything else the fumes smell and it’s hard to teach with the sound of multiple lorries rolling by.

But it’s not only the toxins from HGVs passing the school that concern me. The Cuadrilla site lies below the centre of the village, and the prevailing wind blows from the south-west. The flare will burn waste gases resulting from the flow-testing, but RSK, Cuadrilla’s consultants, have written only about the NOx and carbon monoxide emissions produced from the flare. There will also be sulphur dioxide, which combines with water to form sulphurous acid, which is very irritating if inhaled. If the flare burns at less than 100% efficiency, it is probable that highly toxic polyaromatic hydrocarbons and volatile organic and inorganic compounds will be produced. These will be carried on the prevailing wind up into the village, and to the nursery school on Haywards Heath Road. There must be a continual monitoring of the operation of the flare, not just occasional. As I said before, children are at higher risk than adults.

Recent studies by health professionals in America have recommended a 1.6km set back from residents and schools, for this kind of work to take place. Most of our village is within 1.6km and the school sits on the boundary. The closest residents are only 350m away.

Even if we discount the hundreds of occasions when oil and gas companies have polluted aquifers in the US, this Balcombe site is too close to these sources of our drinking water for complacency. There has been chronic flooding at Cuadrilla’s site at Preston New Road in Lancashire. We cannot be sure that the same thing will not happen at Balcombe, with potentially disastrous consequences for our water supply.

Therese Koffey, Under Secretary of State at DEFRA, said ‘The Environment Agency has raised concerns over the management of surface water on site and has asked the operator to address this as a matter of priority.’

Private eye also quotes the Environment Agency as saying “Contaminated surface water saturated the ground and flowed over land into a field drain, which then discharged to a brook.” We are trusting this company with two of the most precious commodities to life, clean air and clean water. Cuadrilla will be trusted to self-regulate. Cuadrilla is not a firm I can trust. I am an engineer’s daughter, and if there’s one thing I learnt from my Dad, it’s Murphy’s Law – what can go wrong will go wrong. We should be taking the precautionary principle here as this work is too close to both residents and water supplies for comfort.

The children are the next generation of Balcombe, and as a parent and as a teacher, it is my duty to protect their health and wellbeing.  As a voter, I rely on you to keep your part of the bargain you made with voters, to safeguard our health and our safety, and to protect us from the harmful aspects of life over which we have no control.

I ask you to think hard about this as you decide whether to grant permission to this application or not.

As you have probably seen, in the last few days, Egdon Resources have been refused planning permission in North Lincolnshire to acidise a site – very similar to what Cuadrilla is asking for here.

The County Council turned them down twice, and on Thursday of last week, the Planning Inspector confirmed the County Council’s decision, after Egdon Resources had appealed.

You can say no!  And for the sake of my children, of all the children at the Balcombe School and Buttercup Barn nursery, and of the residents old and young of our lovely village, I ask you to reject the application.


10.52am Speakers against the application – Sue Taylor, Balcombe Parish Council

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Speaker against the application, Sue Taylor, 9 January 2018. Photo: DrillorDrop

Ms Taylor says:

This site is close to our village.  The nearest house, Kemps Farm, is only 350 metres away, and the rest of the village a mere 800 metres. The south-westerly prevailing winds bring any noise and pollution directly onto our village.

We oppose this development.

We have many concerns, including water safety, air pollution, damage to the environment and the health of our residents… but in the time allowed I would like to focus on just five areas:

  • Residents’ opposition to exploration of this type
  • The impact of the flare, especially when local topography and wind are considered.
  • HGV traffic routed through the village and past our school.

And, if this application is accepted, contrary to local people’s wishes, we need:

  • a robust Noise Management Plan, particularly as in 2013 noise regularly exceeded permitted limits.
  • insurance or a bond to mitigate any liabilities.

Village opposition

In 2013 a poll was conducted under the supervision of the Electoral Reform Society which resulted in a simple majority opposing any oil exploration, whether or not it involved fracking, and a resolution that Balcombe Parish Council should always oppose it.  We are elected by our residents and their views are of utmost importance.

The flare

The application provides limited information about the flare, other than that it will be enclosed.  We are concerned about the noise of the flare and particularly about its emissions.  Without knowing the precise composition of the oil in the well – Cuadrilla have not supplied that information – or the temperature and operation of the flare, we cannot know what toxins may be emitted.  It is possible that some may be highly toxic.

Normally, the height of a flare would result in emissions being blown up and away.  But here, with our village on a hill, the top of the flare is below the village.  The prevailing wind will bring any toxins directly into the village.

We are not aware that the Environment Agency has approved the air dispersal document, which is a significant concern, and we would like to request that conditions are applied that require:

  • continuous monitoring of emissions from the flare,
  • continuous monitoring of air quality at Kemps Farm and in the village, and that
  • results are monitored daily by the Environment Agency and made publicly available

Traffic

We remind the committee that in 2014 they asked that the southern route to the site be added. We request a condition that all hazardous materials and loads be obliged to access the site from the south, and not to pass within two metres of our primary school.

Noise

In 2013, Cuadrilla exceeded the permitted noise levels and did nothing until forced to do so.

Conditions applied in 2014 obliged continuous noise monitoring, whereas the 2018 conditions propose measurement only once a week.  We request that monitoring should be continuous, and that results are submitted to the Council more regularly than weekly.

And we would like to request that the suggested Noise Management Plan is in place prior to any testing, so that the proposed ‘mitigation measures’ are already also in place.

Financial coverage

Should a disaster occur, or should there be any environmental damage arising from oil exploration at the site now or in the future, we would like the certainty that sufficient money is ring-fenced to meet all restoration costs.  This is particularly pertinent since Cuadrilla have reported net losses for the last four years.

Summary

Balcombe Parish Council opposes this application, as do the majority of Balcombe residents.

However, if permission is granted, we would then request:

  • continuous monitoring of flare emissions and air quality
  • continuous monitoring of noise and a robust Noise Management Plan
  • mandatory access from the south for vehicles carrying hazardous materials
  • guarantees provided for possible or potential liabilities for at least 50 years

And finally, we request that the requirement for a liaison group, which was included in the 2014 conditions, be reinstated.

We urge you to consider the impact of your decision on Balcombe, and on the well-being of Balcombe residents.


10.50am Speakers against the application

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Speakers against the application, from left, Helen Savage, Sue Taylor and John Scates, 9 January 2018. Photo Jon O’Houston


10.44am Key issues

Oil and gas. Planner Chris Bartlett says great weight should be given to indigenous supplies of oil and gas. The county minerals plan says proposals will be supported in the best option locations.

He says there is an identified need to establish whether hydrocarbons identified in 2013 were commercially exploitable.

Traffic The highest increase in lorry numbers would be 8%. This would not be significant, Mr Bartlett says. The council’s highways officer has not objected.

Amenity and health. Mr Bartlett says the flare could cause noise disturbance but these could be controlled by monitoring and remediation. Emissions from the flare are controlled through the environmental permit.

Water. Mr Bartlett says mineral planning authorities must assume that other regulatory regimes operate effectively. He says the Environment Agency and HSE have not objected. There is an impermeable membrane on site, he says. There will be schemes to control surface and foul water. The use of dilute hydrochloric acid is a standard procedure. The proposal accords with the relevant minerals policies.

Landscape. Mr Bartlett says the site is in the AONB but landscape officers have not said it will have a significant impact on the landscape. The largest features on the site will be the rig at 32m (3 weeks), flare at 13m (1 week) and crane 40m (1 week).

Ecology. A key concern is the impact on bats. Mr Bartlett says the ecology officer has not objected subject to controls on lighting and monitring.

The scheme would have minimal impact and meet a need to explore for oil and gas, Mr Bartlett. It is acceptable subject to appropriate conditions, he says. He says the scheme is recommended subject to conditions.


10.36am Planner introduces the application

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Council planner Chris Bartlett (far right) and planning manager, Jane Moseley (second right)

Council planner, Chris Bartlett, says the application is for testing the oil flow in the well. It does not include fracking, he says.

The site, at Lower Stumble, is about 800m from Balcombe village. The nearest homes are 350m from the well pad.

The site is in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The original planning permission was granted in 2010. The well was drilled in 2013. A planning permission for flow testing in 2014 was not implemented and has since lapsed.

The current application is for testing and site restoration. Cuadrilla is seeking two years, rather than the previous six months. This is to allow the company time to assess the viability of the well, Mr Bartlett says. If the well is viable, an application will be submitted for production, he says.

The application must be determined on its merits, he says.

A workover rig of 32m, will be in place for 3 weeks. This will be reduced in height later. A 40m crane will be on site for less than a week.

Mr Bartlett says more than 2,730 objections have been received, including Balcombe Parish Council, Worth and Ardingly Parish Councils and CPRE.


10.30am meeting begins

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Committee chair, Duncan Crow, 9 January 2018. Photo: Jon O’Houston

Committee chair, Cllr Duncan Crow (left), opens the meeting.

Cllr Crow says the application will be decided on the merits of the application, despite the large number of comments.


10.25am Councillors and the public take their places

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West Sussex County Council planning meeting, 9 January 2018. Photo: DrillOrDrop

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West Sussex County Council planning meeting, 9 January 2018. Photo: Jon O’Houston


10am Opponents gathering outside county hall

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Opponents of Cuardrilla’s Balcombe test plans gather at County Hall, 9 January 2018. Photo: DrillOrDrop

20180108 Balcombe opponents1 Jon O'Houston

Opponents of Cuardrilla’s Balcombe test plans gather at County Hall, 9 January 2018. Photo: Jon O’Houston

20180108 Balcombe opponents2 Jon O'Houston

Opponents of Cuardrilla’s Balcombe test plans gather at County Hall, 9 January 2018. Photo: Jon O’Houston


Reporting at this event has been made possible by individual donations to DrillOrDrop

11 replies »

  1. Just a bunch of HYPOCRITES who would protest about anything……if their ELECTRICITY/GAS was turned OFF or they were unable to fill up their FOSSIL FUEL BURNING CARS they would really get in a strop !

    • I lift shared to Chichester today in my electric car which is powered by the sun through our solar panels on sunny days and by renewables form Ecotricity at other times. You may also be interested to know it is cheaper to lease and do the same journeys in the electric car that we were previously doing in our petrol car. The other car that came from Balcombe was also electric, the rest of the Balcombe people bussed together for environmental reasons (because it actually cost them more to do so than travel alone!) BTW we don’t ‘strop’ we research, act on it and try to find ways to move forward positively.

      [Post corrected at poster’s request]

  2. [Edited by moderator] Speak to residents at Broadford Bridge. Dirty HGVs carrying noxious fluids, noise and light day and night during and outside permitted hours, unknown damage to environment as not enough EA monitoring.[Edited by moderator] Cuadrilla won’t be around to pay liabilities, the Council and residents will have to pay

  3. “we have to assume the Environment Agency will do it’s job”, Jane Moseley you will be held responsible and your colleagues. In the face of scientific and historic evidence you choose to support an industry that is contributing to climate change, polluting our environment, putting our children’s health at risk. Don’t forget we have video evidence of you applauding oil industry spokesperson at planning meetings. We will not forget!

  4. Well. Let’s see if they have the money or the project manager to do this on time this time around. Twice they missed the deadline. Cuadrilla should consider itself lucky to get permission third time. Final straw this is. They probably hit a dry well just like ukog anyway so the locals shouldn’t be too worried. It is the investors that should be worried as ukog investors found out.

  5. Unanimous.

    Interesting the Wressle card was played and discarded as a Joker. Also, I noted that mention was made reference the maritime disaster in the Far East and the dangers of relying on imported oil.

    Suspect it is the 1066 plan repeating, TW. Drag all the “hordes” up North, wear them out, and then suddenly it all kicks off down south!

  6. Please invest as much money as you can possibly scrabble together in fracking/onshore oil & gas in the UK.

    The industry has never had such a bright future.

    Please. I beg you ☺

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