Helen Savage responds to government support for fracking from the West Sussex village of Balcombe, scene of anti-fracking protests in summer 2013.
A fortnight ago, the business secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg, formally announced the lifting of the moratorium on fracking in England. He described opponents of fracking as Luddites and later suggested that the shale gas industry should canvass for support door-to-door, like politicians at election time.
The oil site at Balcombe has been largely mothballed since Cuadrilla drilled an exploration well nine years ago. Since then, villagers have established the solar company, RePower Balcombe. A bid to test the Balcombe well was refused by West Sussex County Council last year. A decision on an appeal is awaited.
Speaking from experience – Helen Savage
The moratorium on fracking is being lifted, therefore I can only assume that Liz Truss and her government no longer wish to remain in power!
Have they not noticed the spread of anti-fracking campaigns across the country since 2013? The climate emergency?
I speak from experience in Balcombe. When oil and gas come knocking at the door, local communities very quickly discover what bad neighbours they are; from broken promises on noise and traffic to damaged wells.
After an avalanche of objections, West Sussex County Council unanimously voted ‘no’ to more work from Angus energy in Balcombe. According to the West Sussex Joint Minerals Plan, it’s clear such exploration should not be happening here. And yet the company can appeal and has.
We now wait for the final decision from someone in a government office.
If they overturn the council’s refusal it would make a mockery of local democracy.
There are already rumblings that fracking sites could be considered Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects, which would bypass normal planning requirements.
What community would willingly say yes, after all? Or are government and the industry assuming people will take bribes in exchange for lowering their air quality, supersized trucks rumbling past their schools and being kept awake by the sound of drilling and worry of earthquakes?
It makes me sick to think of Jacob’s Rees-Mogg’s oily salesmen going door to door to try and prove they have community consent. We’ve had our fair share of misleading industry spin first-hand in Balcombe.
Rees-Mogg calls opponents of fracking Luddites.
Tell that to Repower Balcombe, a community energy collective set up in the year that Cuadrilla came here. It has been able to donate thousands to local community lighting projects with its profits.
No-one has protested, no air has been sullied with fumes, no-one has been kept up at night and there is no risk of earthquakes.
Solar energy has turned profits in Balcombe, not climate changing fossil fuels. Who then are the real luddites trying to resurrect dinosaur technology?