South Downs oil drilling refusal recommended

South Downs

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Plans for the exploratory drilling for oil and gas in the South Downs National Park have been recommended for refusal.

Energy firm Celtique wants to conduct the work at Nine Acre Copse, near Fernhurst in West Sussex.

Officers from the park's authority said the company had failed to demonstrate that "exceptional circumstances" exist for the work and that it was in the public interest.

Celtique Energie said it was "confident in the robustness of our application".

A company spokesman said it recognised the national park's importance to the local community and that minerals can only be worked from where they naturally occur.

He said: "The exploration well is a temporary structure that would have a modest impact on the local area during its relatively short period of operation but would conclude on behalf of DECC [the Department of Energy and Climate Change] whether oil or gas reserves exist in this location that could contribute to the UK's energy mix."

'Madness'

A report to be submitted to the authority's planning committee, which will decide on the application on 11 September, gave three reasons for recommending refusal.

Firstly, it said the company had not demonstrated that the national need for indigenous oil and gas supply could not be located elsewhere, secondly, that the proposed development and HGV movements would adversely affect the landscape and residents and thirdly that the company had failed to show the development would not give rise to unacceptable noise.

Friends of the Earth said people living near the site would be pleased to see the recommendation for refusal.

Spokeswoman Brenda Pollack said: "The planning committee must heed this advice. Exploring for unconventional reserves of oil or gas under one of our most prized areas of natural beauty would be madness.

"The planning department is right to be concerned about the damage to the landscape, noise pollution and increased traffic."

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