A challenge has begun to the refusal of testing at the Balcombe oil site in West Sussex.
Angus Energy has appealed against the unanimous refusal almost a year ago of its planning application for an extended well test
The vote, against the recommendation of county council planning officers, decided the application for the test was not in the public interest and would have minimal benefit to the local economy.
More than 800 people objected to the proposal.
The Balcombe site was the scene of daily protests in summer 2013 when the well was drilled by Cuadrilla. The protests increased UK awareness of fracking (not carried out at Balcombe) and helped to launch a nationwide campaign against the process.
Angus Energy’s application was the sixth time in just over 10 years that oil companies have sought permission to test the viability of oil production at Balcombe. So far, only a short test has been carried out, in 2018, when unexpected water was found in the well.
The appeal is likely to focus on the site’s location in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The test proposal was considered to be a major development. This meant there must be exceptional circumstances, in the public interest, to justify approval.
Angus Energy said in its statement of case:
“the planning benefits of granting planning permission and material considerations far outweigh the disbenefits. Consequently, the Appellant considers that the planning balance is strongly in favour of granting planning permission.”
The company said the benefit of mineral extraction represented exceptional circumstances.
It would argue that there was a need for the development because it would contribute to UK security of oil supply and help the transition to a low carbon economy.
Angus Energy previously estimated that the well test could invest £815,000 in the local economy.
It also states that £5.2m has been spent on the Balcombe site so far. This included site construction drilling, flow testing and analysis of results. The company said:
“Having invested considerable capital sums in the initial exploration and testing phases, the Appellant considers that there is a justifiable technical case to move to an EWT as part of the appraisal phase.
“If the well was decommissioned (plugged and abandoned) and the Site restored now, the potential reserves in place would be unlikely to ever be recovered.”
The Planning Inspectorate has said the appeal will be decided by written representations, rather than a public inquiry.
Comments by interested parties can be submitted online. The deadline is 17 March 2022.
- DrillOrDrop will report on the progress of the appeal, comments on the case and the result