Live news updates from the meeting of West Sussex County Council’s planning committee discussing the application by UK Oil & Gas for its Broadford Bridge oil exploration site.
The company wants to extend permission at the site near Billingshurst for another 18 months. It said this would allow it to review data and restore the site.
Planning officers have recommended approval. But West Chiltington Parish Council and some local residents have objected. The committee is expected to hear presentations by residents.
Planning permission for exploring and testing hydrocarbon at Broadford Bridge expires on 15 September 2018. A permission for fencing expires on 30 September 2018.
The original consent was granted in 2013 and extended in 2017. DrillOrDrop key details and timeline for Broadford Bridge
Reporting from this meeting has been made possible by individual donations from DrillOrDrop readers
4.45pm Reaction from Green Party MEP
Keith Taylor, the Green Party MEP for south east England said this afternoon:
“I am bitterly disappointed by this decision, which favours UKOG’s desperate search for profits above the expressed opposition and concerns of local residents and environmental campaigners. I will continue to back residents and campaigners as they stand united against unconventional, climate and environment-destructive fossil fuel extraction in their community.”
“The decision highlights a common concern among local residents  across the South East; they feel that oil and gas drilling is been thrust on them without their consent. UKOG doesn’t have a social licence for its operations and, thanks to the blind support of the government, no longer feels it even needs to pretend it is seeking one.
“This development is bad for our local communities and local environment but, more than that, it is also a dereliction of our collective political duty to keep fossil fuels in the ground if we’re ever to meet our legally-binding international climate commitments.”
1.15pm Reaction from opponents
After the meeting, Jill Sutcliffe, who spoke against the application, said:
“It went as we had predicted.
“All this is taking place against the icreasing evidence of the facts of climate change. We should not be attempting to extract inaccessible supplies of oil and gas, using more energy to do it, in the face of climate change evidence.”
As UKOG representatives left county hall, opponents said:
“You care going to run out of money”
“How about your children’s futures”
There is currently no response or statement from UK Oil & Gas. This post will be updated with any comment.
The committee votes 8 to 2 to retain the site for 18 months.
On the second application to extend the fencing permission, members vote 9 to 1.
12.45pm Councillor discussions
Cllr Andrew Barrett Miles asks what would happen if the application were refused. Planning officer, Chris Bartlett, says the site would need to be restored as soon as possible and the fencing removed.
Cllr Barrett-Miles says a year ago the committee concluded that there would be no damage to the environment or public if the permission were extended. Mr Bartlett says there has been no material change. The councillor suggests this is a paper exercise and the impact would be less than last time the permission was extended.
Cllr Kirsty Lord asks whether there has been any restoration work and why has the application come so late. Chris Bartlett, planning officer, says all the testing equipment has been removed. He says the application was submitted within 13 weeks of the expiry of permission. The company could come back with another application in the future, he says.
Cllr Liz Kitchen asks whether a bond would be feasible. Chris Bartlett says a financial guarantee for restoration is not justified. He says restoration is covered by insurance.
Cllr Nigel Jupp asks whether a new application would be needed for further drilling. He asks how the additional 22 heavy goods vehicle movements compare with the current levels. Chris Bartlett says the extra movements are not severe. He confirms there has been no comment from the local councillor.
Cllr Simon Oakley says conditions on restoration were imposed because the permanent existence in the landscape was not considered acceptable. He asks for the justification for extending the time. He says it seems to depend on the results from other sites. How long is this site going to remain like it is. Is there sufficient justification for this site remaining ad infinitum awaiting results from other well sites.
At this point, should we say you’ve had long enough?, Cllr Oakley says should be considered at some point.
Cllr Oakley asks whether the heras fencing by Adversane Lane will be removed. Chris Bartlett says he has been told that the heras fencing will be taken down by the road. Cllr Oakley says this should be removed and a condition included on this issue.
Cllr Janet Duncton says if the company came back for a further extension the committee would be quite tough.
Cllr Duncan Crow asks about concerns by the Horsham Borough Council about the impact on landscape character. Chris Bartlett says the response was given in the previous application in 2017. Horsham did not respond to the latest application, he says. Cllr Oakley says Horsham did respond to one of the applications.
12.40pm Presentation by Matt Cartwright, UKOG
Mr Cartwright, the chief operating officer for UKOG, says he has come to the committee why another 18 months is needed.
We have not been operating for four years, he says. Previous companies had taken a long time to develop the site.
In all this time, the company has tried to develop good relations with the regulators. The Oil and Gas Authority has extended the exploration licence.
The company has tried to be a good neighbour, he says. There have been visits to the site from more than 200 people.
The Broadford Bridge well found oil and gas in most of the zones. They came to the surface. The question is how to get the oil to the surface commercially.
Kimmeridge oil covers most of the region, he says. We are currently testing the same reservoir at Horse Hill.This will be key to whether this works commercially across the region. The company will also drill new wells at Horse Hill and in the licence area. This is why 18 months is needed, he says.
The UK economy still needs oil and gas, he says.
Broadford Bridge is a key site for the company and a bit more time would add potential, he says.
12.35pm Presentation by Nigel Moore, UKOG planning adviser
Nigel Moore says he is responsible for planning at the Broadford Bridge site. He says the scheme has not changed since it was last considered by the committee. It is still temporary and reversible. He says no new operations are planned.
The review process takes some time because the reserves in the Weald basin vary, he says. Work has to be done by “key hole surgery”. Information should be drawn from as many sources as possible. This should be from neighbouring boreholes and more rigorous data from the Broadford Bridge well.
The domestic supply of oil of gas is a matter of national public interest, he says. Transition to a low-carbon future should not be at the expense of economic development, he adds.
The country has become a net importer of energy. This leaves the UK exposed to energy supply shocks. There needs to be a managed transition to a low carbon economy, he says. The UK should maximise recovery of its own oil and gas reserves, he says. Planning conditions are doing their job in terms of amenity, he adds.
Mr Moore says the planning balance should be in favour of the proposals.
12.29pm Presentation by Dr Jill Sutcliffe, opponent
Dr Sutcliffe, a environmental scientist who worked for Natural England, speaks for opponents of the application.
She says she is concerned about unfulfilled commitments by the company and the potential impact of unseen harms of the application for the area.
She says the extension is an unwarranted increase in the duration of the permission. She says
[it] “leaves the local community and environment under an unnecessary shadow”.
She says the increase from 49 to 67 months amounts to an increase in time of almost 40%. She adds that the community has been told three times the site would be restored.
“No restoration is in sight and the company says it now needs 18 months instead of six weeks.”
Dr Sutcliffe says the Broadford Bridge site is not viable. Even UKOG said “flow rates … are likely sub-commercial”, she says.
“I suggest restoration should commence now on September 15 as per your current planning permission, condition 1, and not be extended.”
Dr Sutcliffe says the exploration work at Broadford Bridge is complete.
“The application refers to other sites in the Weald which are not within West Sussex jurisdiction and thus cannot and should not be a consideration in the current application.”
Dr Sutcliffe says the operator should be required to restore the site that has no further use to them. She says UKOG has already been served with a Breach of Condition notice after failing to restore the Markwells Wood site in the South Downs National Park for two years.
She adds that the operation to drill the Broadford Bridge well was flawed. The cement bonding failed, causing the well to leak. Five of the 12 chemicals used in the well were highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates and one to water, while two were carcinogenic.
“I urge you not to allow this to remain in doubt for a further 18 months. Restoration should start as planned this month.”
Dr Sutcliffe adds that Horsham District Council had expressed concerns about the effect of the site on landscape character but this was not in the planning officer’s report.
She also says there are invisible harms from the site from air and water pollution and from drilling near faults.
She calls for a bond to cover any liability at the site or failure to restore it.
12.19pm Planners’ report
Planning officer, Chris Bartlett, introduces the application.
Mr Bartlett says the site is at Wood Barn Farm, 3km south of Billingshurst. It is set back from Adversane Lane by a purpose-built track, he says. There are two blocks of woodland nearby.
Mr Bartlett says the original permission was granted in February 2013, with an extension in September 2017. Drilling and testing has been completed.
The extra 18 months is for a review of the data. He says data from other boreholes would be considered, particularly at Horse Hill in Surrey.
If there is a viable hydrocarbon resource then the site would be retained, with another application. If there were not, the site would be restored to an agricultural field by March 2020.
Mr Bartlett says there have been no objections from statutory consultees, except West Chiltington Parish Council. 27 people objected to the extension, six in support and others raised concern. There were objections from Keep Kirdford and Wisborough Green, Broadford Bridge Action Group and Campaign to Protect Rural England.
Mr Bartlett says planning policy puts great weight on the need for domestically produced oil and gas. There is an identified need for the development on the site, he says.
He adds the development is considered acceptable in its impact on local residents, landscape or visual impact. There is no risk to the water environment and the impact on air quality is low, he says.
Officers say the extension will have minimal impact on people or the environment and would help to meet a national need, Mr Bartlett adds. He recommends the permission is granted subject to conditions.
12.180pm Session begins
Committee chair, Duncan Crow, opens this sessions of the committee meeting.
12.10pm Opponents take their seat
10am Small demonstration outside county hall
A small group of opponents of the application gathered outside West Sussex County Council headquarters in Chichester, wearing hazard suits.
Reporting from this meeting has been made possible by individual donations from DrillOrDrop readers