Residents in the West Sussex village of Balcombe are preparing for the first activity at an exploratory oil site for five years.
Cuadrilla drilled the well on the edge of the village in summer 2013, accompanied by the biggest anti-fracking protests then seen in the UK.
The company left the well untested when planning permission expired in September 2013. Operation of the site at Little Stumble has since been transferred to Angus Energy, which also runs oil sites at Lidsey in West Sussex and Brockham in Surrey.
But yesterday, Balcombe Parish Council announced that it had been approached “at very short notice” to participate in a community liaison group about the site.
This morning, Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association (FFBRA), a group opposed to the oil operations, told its members:
“Angus are coming to Balcombe”.
FFBRA said was preparing to raise money to fight any future planning application for oil production at the site.
“Well test by September”
Last month, Angus Energy tweeted:
“We hope our followers are enjoying the last weeks of summer. Team at Angus working hard. 21 May guidance is unchanged”.
That guidance, issued in a statement to investors said:
“Angus Energy will conduct an approved 7 day well test on the horizontal well at Balcombe before the end of the Q3/18. The market will be updated in due course.”
For the work to be completed by the end of September, Angus Energy would need to start in just over a fortnight by 24 September.
Last month, the Environment Agency issued a permit for Lower Stumble but required checks and work to be carried out before the flow test could start. These include conditions on emissions monitoring, site containment, leak detection, a pollution incident plan and a plan for vapour recovery.
Angus Energy must inform West Sussex County Council at least seven days before the flow test starts. But DrillOrDrop understands that the council is not required to tell local people.
The community liaison group (GLG) is a condition required by West Sussex County Council when it unanimously extended planning permission at the site for two years in January.
“Balcombe Parish Council has been approached at very short notice to participate in a Community Liaison Group (CLG) with Angus Energy, WSCC [West Sussex County Council], The Environment Agency and MSDC [Mid Sussex District Council].
“The CLG has been set up to provide a conduit for information regarding forthcoming flow test activity at Lower Stumble in Balcombe.”
The parish council added:
“No information on timescales for any activity at Lower Stumble has been given to date.”
In an update on its website, FFBRA said the composition of the CLG has not been finalised but it expected to be represented. It said:
“The purpose of this group is not to challenge, lobby or protest about the oil operation. It is to act as a structured conduit for questions from residents to Angus – and for their responses to be conveyed back, shared and made public.”
Questions for the CLG can be sent to Balcombe Parish Council by midday today (Wednesday 5 September 2018) by email to the Parish Council clerk or by phoning 01444 811833.
FFBRA said it would also take questions by email, send them to Angus and publicise the answers.
Terms of reference
On 10 September 2018, Angus Energy published the terms of reference for the CLG.
This said there would be about 15 people on the group. It would be chaired by the local county councillor and include two district councillors, two parish councillors, officers from the county and district councils and Environment Agency, and representatives of Angus Energy and the local community.
The CLG is to meet monthly for a maximum of two hours. There should be at least one meeting before operations start. Meetings will stop one month after operations are completed. Meetings are open only to CLG members but documents and minutes will be made available online.
Angus Energy will chose the venue for pay for the costs of administering the meetings.
If the flow test is successful, Angus Energy is expected to submit a planning application for production.
“Many residents believe the oil business has packed up and gone away. Cuadrilla may have packed up, but Angus Energy is back. We need to oppose the production licence application, when it comes, and we shall not have long to prepare. We need to start now.”
The group said it was preparing to launch an appeal to raise money for expert advice.
Updated: 10/9/2018 with terms of reference of the CLG