Councillors in West Sussex voted unanimously this afternoon in favour of Cuadrilla’s plans to flow test its oil well at Balcombe. DrillOrDrop live updates
The council’s planning committee added several conditions, including a local liaison group and continuous noise and air quality monitoring.
At the end of the two-hour meeting, some members of the packed public gallery shouted “Shame on you”.
The permission gives Cuadrilla three years to test the commercial viability of the well, drilled in 2013, amid protests which made national headlines.
DrillOrDrop has been collecting reaction to the decision.
Matt Lambert, Cuadrilla director
“We are delighted that West Sussex County Council’s Planning Committee has unanimously approved our planning application to flow test and monitor the existing exploration well at our site at Lower Stumble, Balcombe. This covers the same scope of work as the previous planning permission granted in 2014. The well requires no hydraulic fracturing because the rock is naturally fractured. The flow testing Cuadrilla is looking to undertake will measure the rate at which oil flows from the well.
“We are aware the planning permission only runs until 2021 and that once we start the work it must be completed within two years, including plugging the well with cement and fully restoring the site. We will establish a local Community Liaison Group and consult with residents, at the appropriate time, before work commences.”
Helen Savage, Balcombe teacher and resident who spoke against the application
“We are very disappointed but not surprised. We had expected it would be approved because councillors have to work within the planning regime which has been skewed by government policy in favour of the oil and gas industry.
“It’s very frustrating. The country says we must comply with the Paris climate change agreement but at a micro level we are saying that we need oil and gas and must develop fossil fuels.
“We are all concerned about climate change. This decision is opening the way to more fossil fuels when we should be developing renewables for the next generation.
“We’re also concerned about the industrialisation of our countryside. The executive chairman of UKOG has already said oil companies will need to drill wells back to back to make this pay.
“If the council is not going to protect us, we will have to protect ourselves. We already have more than 6,000 paper and online signatures on a petition against oil exploration at Balcombe.
“The liaison group is a small concession. When Cuadrilla drilled the well, we didn’t know who to complain to. I live nearly 1km from the site and I couldn’t sleep with the window open because it was so noisy. We were passed from one organisation to another.”
Rodney Jago, Balcombe resident who spoke in favour of the application
“It is the right decision for the economy and it will do no harm to Balcombe.
“I feel that somebody has got to stand up for our economy, for our hospitals and NHS, as opposed to selfish nimbyism.
“There is concern that the village will be industrialised. This is nonsense. We might see a nodding donkey. It will be a tourist attraction as much as anything else. I see it doing no harm whatsoever to our peaceful village.
“Unfortunately the only impact when the well was drilled was protests. No one is against peaceful protest but when it comes to trespass that is a different matter.”
Brenda Pollack, Friends of the Earth South East campaigner
“This is devastating news for villagers and everyone who wants a clean and safe environment to live in.
“Where is the democracy when over 2,700 people objected to Cuadrilla returning to this beautiful rural part of Sussex?
“Whether it’s fracking or not, dirty fossil fuels must be left in the ground. Allowing companies to drill underground for ever more difficult to extract oil and gas reserves is crazy when it won’t help keep polluting emissions down. We need to see a much bigger push for a cleaner future without an over-reliance on oil. Cleaner transport measures and reducing car and lorry movements is the way forward.
“The residents who came today showed what local people feel about this. Cuadrilla and companies like it are not welcome here. It seems like the government’s support for dirty oil and gas is forcing these projects through.”
Keith Taylor, Green Party MEP, South East England
“It’s a sad day for local residents and campaigners. Councillors have chosen to place the commercial interests of Cuadrilla above those of their own constituents and the planet. The people of Balcombe and voters across West Sussex have registered their opposition to these climate and environmentally-destructive plans time and time again. And we saw by the strength of opposition on the steps of the County Hall in Chichester that residents are continuing to say no – loudly and clearly. Councillors, however, have turned a deaf ear to their legitimate concerns.”
“The fight isn’t over, though, the people of Balcombe have rebuffed Cuadrilla’s advances before and I will continue standing alongside them as they fight to protect their homes and communities once again.”
“The government-backed unconventional oil and gas rush across the UK will not only despoil this Outstanding Area of Natural Beauty but will ensure the UK fails to meet its legally-binding climate change targets under the Climate Change Act and Paris Agreement.”
“The scientific consensus on the climate breakdown has never been greater. The best chance we have of averting climate catastrophe is by keeping fossil fuel reserves in the ground.”
“Instead of facilitating, and in many cases investing in the dirty oil and gas industry, Councillors had an obligation to take note of the overwhelming public opposition to oil and gas drilling in the region and refuse permission for any new drilling. We need to be working to build a clean energy future – for West Sussex and across the UK.”