Balcombe appeal underway

A challenge has begun to the refusal of testing at the Balcombe oil site in West Sussex.

Banner outside the Balcombe oil site following the refusal of planning permission in March 2021.
Photo: Helen Savage

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.

Angus Energy’s 78-page statement of case for the appeal is now on the county council’s website. There are also details on the Planning Inspectorate’s appeals portal.

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

11 replies »

  1. The question was about who could submit a comment or representation to be considered by the planning inspector. The answer is anyone can. You don’t need to have a formal role or to register as a Rule 6 Party.
    In a hearing, a Rule 6 Party has the right to call and cross-examine witnesses. In this case, the decision is currently listed to be by written representations.

  2. At this dreadful time every barrel of oil not produced locally is a contribution to Putin’s war chest.

    In the recent past drilling and other works at local Stumble have caused NO damage to the environment or the community with the sole exception of the disruption caused by protesters.

    Lower Stumble, a mile from the village, offers an opportunity to demonstrate that oil can be produced safely & without damage to the community. A couple of tankers a week are not significant, but could be an example to others.

    Times have changed dramatically. A bit of minor inconvenience is no longer an excuse for blocking contributions, however small, to the free world’s energy supply.

    There is still time to support the Appeal. Please find it in your hearts to do so.

    • You seem to overlook that every barrel of oil produced is another ratchet of global heating; global heating that is DEVASTATING communities and environment across the world RIGHT NOW. The best way to deprive Putin’s war chest is to switch to cheaper, cleaner renewables….and that transition is now being ramped up in Europe. You’re right, though, that a couple of tankers a week are totally INSIGNIFICANT in terms of UK energy security or fuel prices. Do you know if the content of those tankers even stays in the UK? Find it in your heart to save millions of people from dying across the world due to catastrophic extreme weather events – reject fossil fuels. The climate crisis is not a minor inconvenience!

      • Alex, I am not sure why I have received this now. Is there a glimmer of hope that Balcombe will contribute a little to the energy emergency & by so doing encourage others to drop dogmatic opposition?
        I repeat, that until we have sufficient nuclear power to back up renewables we shall unavoidably require some oil & gas. This can be imported at great cost to the economy & environment, or, to some extent produced locally.
        Every barrel we leave in the ground; A) boosts Putin’s war, B) results in more coal burning somewhere in the world to the greater detriment of the environment, C) deprives Local & National Government of royalty & tax revenue so badly needed to help the millions in, or about to be in, serious energy poverty.
        Perhaps royalty & tax should be increased but it is certain that energy left in the ground it can help neither the environment, our economy or our fellow citizens.
        Failure to exploit such resources as we have will do absolutely nothing for the environment while India, China & Germany (to name a few) actually INCREASE their use of coal for energy. It is a pointless gesture at the expense of those who can least afford it.
        I have no doubt you are sincere in your concern for the world environment but please consider whether your opposition is actually helping or are you unintentionally encouraging those selfish people who feel entitled to have their energy piped in from “lesser “ areas?

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