Lord Cowdray speaks out against fracking

Lord Cowdray Lord Cowdray refused permission for oil exploration on his land

A major landowner in West Sussex has said he opposes an energy company's plans to drill for oil and gas in the village where he lives.

Lord Cowdray, owner of Cowdray Park Polo Club and estate, said Fernhurst was against Celtique Energie's plans, primarily for reasons of access.

Celtique will submit a planning application for the site near the Surrey border in the next few weeks.

The company said it had taken transport at the location into consideration.

Lord Cowdray, who moved to Fernhurst from his stately home Cowdray Park House, said the "endgame" of the proposed drilling would be fracking.

'Flares and donkeys'

"If they find the reserves they are looking for, naturally they will go on to frack to extract the gas," he said.

"I don't support fracking at all."

Lord Cowdray, who refused permission for Celtique to lease his land for exploration, said he was opposed to drilling at sites like Fernhurst, in the South Downs National Park.

"It's hardly what people expect when they come to a national park - to see flares and nodding donkeys," he said.

He added that it was "inevitable" that Fernhurst would become the next site for anti-fracking protests such as those seen in Balcombe during the summer.

Fernhurst Lorry Demo Protest group Frack Free Fernhurst held a lorry demo to show how vehicles would affect the village

"I'm not one for direct action because I don't necessarily think it achieves the end desired, but you can't fault their commitment," he said.

"I wouldn't really support it and I certainly won't be on the frontlines but I think it is probably inevitable."

Celtique submitted an application to test for oil or gas near Kirdford and Wisborough Green last week.

It said it would apply for the Fernhurst site in late September or early October.

The company said the application would not involve fracking - hydraulic fracturing - the method used to extract fossil fuels from shale rock.

But it said it would assess the potential of any shale rock in the well.

It said the site was set away from nearby residential properties and had good road access for vehicles.

"Celtique recognises the importance of the South Downs National Park... and there are a number of well sites located in national parks across the UK," it said.

"These include the Singleton and Horndean oilfields and the Markwells Wood exploratory well drilled in 2011, which are all located in the South Downs National Park."

Lord Cowdray - who owns large amounts of land in the South Downs National Park - says he thinks it is inevitable that the village of Fernhurst will become the next site for anti-fracking protests

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