Villager “delighted” at recommendation to refuse Balcombe well test

1308 Belt it out Balcombe

Opponents of oil operations at Balcombe in 2013, when the then operator, Cuadrilla, drilled at well near the village. Photo: Used with the owner’s consent

A Balcombe resident has welcomed the report by West Sussex planners opposing Angus Energy’s proposed three-year well test in the village.

Helen Savage, who has campaigned for more than seven years against oil exploration and production at Balcombe, said:

“I am delighted that the planners at West Sussex County Council have recently recommended that Angus Energy’s application for a 3 year flow test at Balcombe be refused.”

In an open letter, she said there were “serious environmental concerns” about the proposed Balcombe well test.

And she accused oil and gas companies of often displaying “a cavalier attitude” to the environment they were working in.

Angus Energy’s application was due to be decided next week by the West Sussex’s planning committee. But the day after the publication of the planners’ recommendation, the council announced the meeting had been cancelled because of coronavirus.

The planners’ report had concluded that the Balcombe test would compromise the protected landscape of the High Weald area of outstanding natural beauty and establish a continued presence of industry which was ”not appropriate to the area”.

The recommendation also said the application was “not in the public interest” and would be of “minimal benefit to the local economy”. There was also scope to meet demand for hydrocarbons outside protected landscapes, it added.

Angus Energy described the recommendation and cancellation of the meeting as frustrating. It said it would use the delay to “present further information to the planning officer which we believe may have a bearing on the final recommendation and decision.”

130803 firstwalkdownCharles talking

Balcombe villagers oppose oil operations in August 2013. Photo: Used with the owner’s consent

The community group, Frack Free Balcombe Residents’ Association had commissioned a review of Angus Energy’s hydrogeological risk assessment for the Balcombe well test.

Ms Savage, a member of the association, said the review concluded that the Angus’s assessment lacked baseline data to assess properly the risks to groundwater and were subjective in the data it used.

“They found that ‘more frequent and more thorough sampling’ would be needed to judge groundwater quality.

“They concluded that ‘both the understanding of risk to the groundwater systems and the proposed mitigation to protect these……….systems is wholly inadequate’. They also found that ‘there are possible breaches in the cement seal’ of the well which presents a risk to groundwater quality’.”

Angus Energy proposed to use hydrochloric acid to improve the flow of oil in the well. Ms Savage said:

“The independent review said it is ‘not appropriate to state that HCL is a non-hazardous substance to groundwater’.

“This confirms just one of the serious environmental concerns we have been highlighting in Balcombe and we hope the planning committee will also consider it sufficient risk in itself to refuse the work going ahead.

“It also illustrates the cavalier attitude too often displayed by oil and gas companies to the environment they are working in.”

West Sussex County Council said all its meetings had been cancelled until the end of April. Decisions on planning applications due to be considered during this period would be postponed. A spokesperson said:

“They should come to a meeting at a later date once we know when we will resume the meetings.”

3 replies »

  1. So a Balcombe ‘Villager’ is happy with a possible refusal ! I presume that ‘Villager’ Has no car/van to fill with Diesel/Petrol etc Never uses Planes/Buses/Trains ! Never wears clothes made from oil by products ! Never uses Gas/Oil heating or Electricity (50% made by Gas Turbines) ! Or is the ‘Villager’ happy to use all of the above as long as it is NOT in the ‘Villagers’ back yard !!!!!

    • Thank you Malcolm, for giving me the opportunity to explain some things about myself that I don’t expect you to know. I was getting hold of recycled paper from Germany in the 1990’s back when people had barely heard of it, for the first 12 years of my working life I took public transport to work, even when the commute went up to an hour and a half and it would only take me 40 minutes to drive. The vehicle you speak of is a kind of an heirloom, and its main use has been for holidays because the electric car we had been leasing did not have the mileage to allow us to go a long distance. We have not bought a bigger house in Balcombe because we put our money where our mouths are and invested in solar hot water (I don’t use a boiler for 6 months of the year) and also solar PV. We saved up now for an electric car with a longer range with the idea of selling the other vehicle you talk of, in fact, if it weren’t for Covid 19 it would be on sale now. We have only used it for holidays, long distances and for carrying large equipment for various community events and organisations. We should all be able to survive with the one electric car, which is very cheap to run because we charge it when the sun is shining as much as possible. As you know I mostly walk or cycle around the village. When we are not able to use the solar we are on Ecotricity, which is about as green as it can get.

      Glad you mentioned fleeces because the last two I have are made out of recycled bottles. But you are right, it is almost impossible to live without contradiction. All anyone can do is try the hardest in their own way to stop climate change. It is difficult when the conservatives have not helped us do that, we do what we can, and it is also up to the government to help encourage living in a sustainable way by making alternatives affordable and viable. Since 2013 people in the campaign have said this isn’t just about Balcombe, it goes way beyond Balcombe. We have all attended meetings in Surrey, Sussex, across the Weald and gone to other oil sites, researched and talked to experts in many fields. As with many campaigns, it is often the locals who notice it first…after all, who else would? Most times I have appeared on here, you have taken the ‘hypocrite’ stance against me and others in the campaign, but no, I’m sorry to disappoint but I’m afraid you prejudge me wrongly.

      ‘Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing, because he could only do a little’
      Edmunde Burke

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