Regulation

Balcombe and Broadford Bridge decisions delayed by coronavirus

180911 WSCC on Broadford Bridge

Opponents of UKOG’s oil exploration plans at Broadford Bridge outside West Sussex County Council, 11 September 2018. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Decisions on plans for Balcombe and Broadford Bridge oil sites in West Sussex will be delayed because of the Covid-19 virus.

The county council’s planning committee was due to consider the applications by Angus Energy and UK Oil & Gas at a meeting next week (24 March 2020).

Yesterday, reports for the meeting’s agenda revealed that council planners were recommending refusal of the Balcombe application for an extended flow test. They recommended approval of the proposals at Broadford Bridge to extend planning consent for another two years.

But today a council statement said:

“Please note that all meetings are being cancelled until the end of April due to the Covid-19 situation, with alternative decision-making arrangements being put in place for urgent matters.

“This includes the Planning Committee meetings scheduled for 24 March and 28 April.”

DrillOrDrop asked West Sussex County Council whether the Balcombe and Broadford Bridge applications counted as urgent matters and what alternatives there would be for deciding them.

A council spokesperson said:

“Planning applications which were due to come to this Planning Committee meeting are being postponed, which means they should come to a meeting at a later date once we know when we will resume the meetings. We will only use urgent procedures when there is no alternative.”

Angus Energy said in a statement this afternoon:

“We are pleased to use this delay as an opportunity to present further information to the Planning Officer which we believe may have a bearing on the final recommendation and decision.”

The company’s managing director, George Lucan, said:

“The delay and recommendation are both frustrating but by no means final and many options exist to reach a more satisfactory outcome.

“In terms of the impact on cashflow, the Balcombe project was forecast to result in cash outflow during calendar 2020 due to capital expenditures at the site.

“To the extent that the delay continues we shall have additional funds to direct to bringing Saltfleetby to first gas.”

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