Proposals to extend the life of a dormant oil site for a fourth time have been supported by West Sussex planners.
The site operator, UK Oil & Gas plc (UKOG), is seeking another two years at Broadford Bridge, near Billingshurst, to carry out data review and appraisal at other sites in the Weald.
In a report to the county council’s planning committee, published today, officials said the proposals for another extension were “considered justified and would have minimal impacts on people or the environment”.
A decision is expected at the next meeting of the council’s planning committee on Wednesday 18 May 2022.
No work has been carried out at Broadford Bridge since March 2018.
If permission were granted for the latest extension, the site would remain suspended for another two years and no work would be carried out there.
UKOG said it needed more time to assess the viability of oil production at its Horse Hill site in Surrey, which may have similarities with Broadford Bridge.
The company is also waiting for the result of a planning appeal on another Surrey site at Loxley, near Dunsfold.
The National Planning Policy Framework, the government document that shapes planning decisions, says mineral planning authorities should “provide for restoration and aftercare at the earliest opportunity”.
But West Sussex planners said there was “a justified need for the proposed extension” at Broadford Bridge.
They said a delay to restoration to farmland would “not result in any permanent impact on the locality”.
They acknowledged that Broadford Bridge was “of an industrial character within a rural setting”. But they said the site was not in a protected landscape and was “well-screened from public views”.
The proposals were “acceptable in terms of landscape/character impact”, they said.
The proposed time extension would not result in increased traffic to the site or to activities producing noise or dust, the planners added:
“It is not considered that the proposed extensions of time would have potential for any unacceptable impacts on the amenity of local residents”.
There were objections to the extension from West Chiltington Parish Council, which said the site should be restored immediately. Pulborough Parish Council also noted that the site was “being constantly extended”.
The application web page lists five objections from members of the public.
The campaign group, Keep Kirdford and Wisborough Green said:
“They have had enough time in which to assess the operation of this failed well; and should pack up and restore the site.”
The group also raised concerns about climate change, water contamination, residential amenity. It said the application was incompatible with government environmental policies.
There were no objections from Horsham District Council or the Environment Agency.
Supporters argued there was no harm in leaving the site for another two years and restoration would be a potential waste of mineral resources. They are also said the UK had a continued need for oil and gas.
- UKOG is seeking permission to extend permission for both the Broadford Bridge site and the compound’s security fencing, gates and cabins for a further 24 months. The planners have recommended approval with 14 conditions. DrillOrDrop will report on the decision by the planning committee. Discussion on the Broadford Bridge decision is expected to start at 2.15pm, on Wednesday 18 May at County Hall in Chichester, PO19 1RQ.