Residents get go-ahead for court challenge to Balcombe oil test

Opponents of plans to test an oil well at the West Sussex village of Balcombe have got permission to bring a legal challenge.

Balcombe residents opposed to the well test, March 2023. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association (FFBRA) sought a statutory review of the government’s decision in February 2023 to grant planning permission for the test.

The group said today:

“After reviewing our claim, a judge has concluded that our case deserves a full hearing. This will last two days and be held at the Royal Courts of Justice.”

The date for the hearing has not yet been set.

Controversial site

The Balcombe well made national headlines when it was sunk in summer 2013 by Cuadrilla.

The drilling operation attracted almost daily protests and raised awareness about onshore oil and gas and fracking.

Opposition continued after Cuadrilla transferred operation of the site to Angus Energy.

Angus argued that the one-year test had the “potential to make a positive contribution” to UK energy supply and energy security. It would have “minor adverse” impacts that would be “temporary and reversible”, the company said.

But West Sussex County Council’s planning committee unanimously refused consent. Councillors decided the test was not in the public interest and would have minimal benefit to the local economy.

Residents also raised concerns about heavy traffic past the school, pollution from round-the-clock flaring, and the risk of contamination to the River Ouse and the drinking water reservoir at Ardingly. They also opposed continuing reliance on fossil fuels in a climate emergency.

“Our chance to revoke planning permission”

In a statement today, FFBRA said:

“This is our chance to have the recent planning permission granted to Angus Energy revoked.”

The group is expected to argue in court that the planning inspector and local government minister:

  • Acted irrationally by taking into account only the benefits of the future extraction of hydrocarbons at Balcombe
  • Unlawfully interpreted local policy on onshore oil and gas (M7 in the West Sussex minerals plan)
  • Unlawfully failed to consider alternatives to the development in the AONB
  • Unlawfully failed to consider the impact of the development on climate change
  • Unlawfully failed to assess (or take into account an assessment) of the impact on water resources

The group has also argued that West Sussex County Council unlawfully failed to comply with planning rules on environmental impact assessments.

FFBRA said the judge had limited the group’s liability for costs, if it lost, to £10,000.

The group is crowdfunding for the case. It needs to raise at least £35,000. Today, the group had raised nearly £15,000 from online pledges and direct donations.

4 replies »

  1. I’m sure without the words ‘climate change’ the crowd justice funding would reach its target but as with Just stop oil, support for quasi objections like this, gather minimal support unfortunately.

  2. Maybe if the organization bringing the challenge actually had a title which had any relevance to this site, or this country, it may get more donations? Although, I would suspect there are those daft enough not to see that.

    If there was a group titled Stop Hanging in Balcombe one would wonder if something had already entered the water.

  3. Back in the real world:

    “Methane leaks alone from Turkmenistan’s two main fossil fuel fields caused more global heating in 2022 than the entire carbon emissions of the UK, satellite data has revealed.

    Emissions of the potent greenhouse gas from the oil- and gas-rich country are “mind-boggling”, and an “infuriating” problem that should be easy to fix, experts have told the Guardian.

    The data produced by Kayrros for the Guardian found that the western fossil fuel field in Turkmenistan, on the Caspian coast, leaked 2.6m tonnes of methane in 2022. The eastern field emitted 1.8m tonnes. Together, the two fields released emissions equivalent to 366m tonnes of CO2, more than the UK’s annual emissions, which are the 17th-biggest in the world.”

  4. I noticed that Paul.

    It was alongside an up-date on Chesapeake Energy on the thread I was looking at, with their latest performance results beating expectations and the amounts of gas they are producing and exporting. It also indicated, that they were easing back on their drilling a bit whilst gas prices were weak. Seemed to be in a pretty healthy position, in the real world, somewhat remote from the fantasy world put forward within certain propaganda. Those tangled webs look pretty silly when real world facts are published.

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