Further plans considered for Balcombe oil well site

Anti-fracking protesters block lorry at Balcombe on 12 September 2013 Fracking protesters from around the country gathered at Balcombe last year

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Plans for further oil and gas exploration at Balcombe have been recommended for approval.

It follows work last summer by energy firm Cuadrilla to test-drill for oil.

A report to West Sussex County Council (WSCC) said planning consent for last year's work expired before operations ended and this plan was for further tests before the well was sealed off.

Three parish councils and 889 third parties oppose the plans, which will be considered by county councillors.

The planning authority has received nine letters of support for the proposals.

Balcombe Parish Council said it opposed the plan after it held a local ballot and 59.8% of voters wanted the parish to object. Ardingly Parish Council raised concerns about close proximity to Ardingly Reservoir and possible water contamination.

Worth Parish Council, meanwhile, has raised concerns about an increase in traffic which it says would be caused.

'Tankers of chemicals'

Issues raised by Frack Free Balcombe Residents' Association include the impact that flares and increased traffic would have on the area.

Its letter of objection refers to how close the test site is to residential properties, that tankers of chemicals would pass children's classrooms and a playground, and the impact of noise and pollution.

Campaigners also said future reliance on fossil fuels would undermine climate change obligations.

Fracking protesters from around the country gathered at Balcombe last year amid fears that Cuadrilla's test drilling for oil would lead to hydraulic fracturing - a method of extracting gas or oil from shale rock.

Cuadrilla has said it will not frack for oil at the site, but has said it still wants to test oil supply suitability using flow-testing, which is work to check the quantity and rate at which oil flows to the surface.

The company said it planned to circulate a dilute hydrochloric acid solution along the well to remove drilling mud and help facilitate oil flow.

It said the substance would be classified as non-hazardous at this dilution ratio and it was "an entirely safe process".

West Sussex councillors will look at the plans on 29 April. Officers have recommended that councillors grant permission subject to conditions.

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