THE SOUTH Downs National Park Authority is facing another yet another controversial plan with news that Celtique Energie has finally submitted its proposal for an exploration well at Fernhurst to drill for shale oil and gas.
It is the company’s third application for a well in the Midhurst and Petworth area.
The first already has planning permission at Broadford Bridge, Billingshurst.
A second application for an exploration well on the borders of Kirdford and Wisborough Green is to go before West Sussex County Council.
A high profile action group has been formed to fight the application called Keep Kirdford and Wisborough Green.
Both parish councils have objected strongly and Chichester District Council has also raised concerns.
The new application is for a well on Nine Acre Copse, on the edge of Fernhurst, in the new South Downs National Park.
Frack Free Fernhurst campaigners are mounting a highly organised fight against the plans and have the powerful backing of Lord Cowdray who moved from Midhurst to his Vann Road home two years ago and finds himself less than a mile from the proposed drilling site.
The application is set to put Britain’s fracking focus on the small rural area and become a test case for similar applications in national parks throughout the country.
As the Observer went to press national park authority planning officers were still validating the application which will be available to view on its website once the process is complete.
Celtique Energie chief executive Geoff Davies said the plan came after ‘extensive engagement’ with Fernhurst villagers.
He said his company recognised the importance of the national park.
But the ‘temporary’ exploration well would have ‘a modest impact on the area during its relatively short’ operation.
“As part of its application, Celtique will be drilling through shale formations encountered in the well to confirm what potential, if any, these rocks have for commercial production. If results prove positive, Celtique may apply for permission to appraise these formations further though a new planning application which could include the use of hydraulic fracturing.”