The Environment Agency has withdrawn its objection to plans for an extended well test at Angus Energy’s oil site at Balcombe in West Sussex.
In November 2019, the regulator opposed the company’s planning application because Angus had not included a detailed and up-to-date hydrogeological risk assessment.
Angus Energy submitted the document in January 2020.
Balcombe Parish Council and the campaign group, Frack Free Balcombe Residents’ Association, have described the risk assessment as “inadequate, incomplete and misleading”.
But the Environment Agency (EA) said in a response published online today:
“We have reviewed the report and are satisfied with the findings and recommendations with respect to the requirements of the planning regime. We therefore remove our objection due to lack of information.”
The EA warned that the granting of planning permission did not necessarily guarantee an environmental permit, separate requirement needed before work can begin.
In advice to West Sussex County Council, which will decide the planning application, the EA said:
“Please note that additional work will be required as part of the environmental permitting process.”
It said Angus Energy would be required to “ensure a suitably robust and comprehensive groundwater monitoring strategy” and “ground truth a number of the risk assessment conclusions in the report”. Ground truth refers to information provided by direct observation, rather than information provided by inference.
The EA also said the company would also need to provide a detailed Construction Quality Assurance report on proposed contamination controls and show that existing methods were suitably robust and fit for purpose.
The date of the next meeting of the council’s planning committee, when the application could be decided, is 24 March 2020. The inclusion of the Angus Energy scheme on the agenda has yet to be confirmed.