CELTIQUE Energie’s boss has spoken out over the treatment of landowners who have leased his company a site in Fernhurst for an exploratory well to drill for oil and gas.
Geoff Davies was visiting the village for another session of surgeries being carried out by his company in which he talks to concerned residents on an individual basis.
He has also been talking to villagers in Kirdford, Wisborough Green and Billingshurst where Celtique Energie also has plans.
Mr Davies told the Observer his company hoped to submit plans for an exploratory well on Nine Acre Copse off Vann Lane in Fernhurst next month.
But he said he was ‘amazed’ at the treatment of landowners Robin and Carla Barnes who were leasing his company the land.
He said they were a couple who had been at the heart of the community for many years ‘and now they are being ostracised’.
“We are quite amazed at how they have been treated by a section of the local community.”
They were simply landowners renting out their land, said Mr Davies: “That they are being so victimised is quite staggering.”
He said one of the reasons for his ‘surgeries’ in the village was to support them.
“We want the venom being thrown at the landowners to be thrown at us.
“We are not hiding from the community, we want people to come and talk to us, not the landowner.”
He said people could also register their views through the planning application process and to their MP.
Mr Davies said Celtique had authorised funding for closed-circuit television for the landowners as a security measure.
“I really do get upset at the way the Barnes have been treated,” said Mr Davies. “I think it’s totally unacceptable for some members of the community to behave like that.”
He said during his sessions with individuals across West Sussex, many were supportive, others were open-minded.
The main concerns were over increased traffic and the effect of the drilling on water supplies. There were also concerns about government monitoring of the ‘fracking’ process.
“Social media scare-mongering is out of all proportion, this is a highly-regulated industry,” he claimed.