A NEW bid for energy exploration south of Midhurst has been received by the UK’s oil and gas regulator.
The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) announced last week that 132 new areas across the country could be offered to companies for exploration, but had been subject to detailed environmental assessments.
One of these geographical blocks between Midhurst and Chichester includes two small rectangular strips of land.
The first is between Cocking and Singleton, and the second is just south of Singleton.
Consultation on the environmental findings will run until the end of September.
All the blocks have received licence applications from companies, but once granted by the OGA, planning permission is still needed for specific sites.
Licences have already been granted for most of the Weald Basin, including Singleton itself, but two applications for exploratory drilling were refused last year by West Sussex County Council and the South Downs National Park Authority, near Wisborough Green and Fernhurst respectively.
Now new guidance has been issued to fast-track shale gas planning applications.
Under the measures, the government’s communities secretary will actively consider ‘calling-in’ applications on a case-by-case basis, while authorities that repeatedly fail to consider proposals oil and gas exploration within the statutory 16-week period could be stripped of their ability to determine applications.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves pumping water and chemicals at high pressure underground to split apart porous shale rock.
Nick Herbert, Arundel and South Downs MP, said: “It’s one thing to demand that council decisions are timely, but another to overturn them entirely.
“Councils should be able to decide if local issues like heavy lorry movements and noise from drilling have been properly addressed, as ministers originally promised.
“West Sussex County Council rightly rejected exploratory drilling by Celtique Energie near Wisborough Green because of traffic concerns, and it would be quite wrong to overturn a well-founded local decision.
“After all, the government has done precisely the opposite to these proposals in relation to wind farms, giving more control to local communities, not less.
“Drilling in poorly-chosen locations like the one near Wisborough Green can create just as much public concern.”
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