DOZENS of anti-fracking protestors will be waiting with bated breath outside the South Downs National Park centre today (September 11).
The South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) planning committee is meeting to decide Celtique Energie Weald Limited’s application to drill for oil/gas at Nine Acre Copse, Fernhurst.
Members of the committee are being recommended to refuse planning permission for exploratory drilling in the national park.
A report by SDNPA officers says Celtique ‘failed to demonstrate that the exploration of this national resource could not be undertaken elsewhere outside this designated area’.
Friends of the Earth campaigner Brenda Pollack said: “This type of exploratory drilling should not take place in one of our most cherished landscapes. It would be madness.
“We hope the committee does the right thing and says no to drilling under our Downs.”
From consultations that have taken place, some 14 objections were raised by various organisations – seven of which were parish or town councils.
Although the application does not include hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – at this stage, campaigners say the process is likely to be used.
The officers’ report adds: “The industrial development proposed would adversely affect the landscape character.
“The increase in heavy vehicle movements along Vann Road would lead to an unacceptable impact on residential amenity.”
A full copy of the report is available at www.southdowns.gov.uk
Trevor Beattie, chief executive for the SDNPA, said: “Any proposal for major development in a national park must demonstrate that exceptional circumstances exist for the development to go ahead and that it is in the public interest for the development to occur.
“Key assessments are whether there is a proven need for this development in this location or whether oil/ gas exploration could take place elsewhere.
“The report speaks for itself.”
A spokesman for Celtique Energie told the Observer: “We are confident in the robustness of our application.
“We have submitted a comprehensive environmental statement that assesses the potential environmental impacts associated with Celtique’s operations. We recognise the importance of the South Downs National Park to the local community.
“The exploration well is a temporary structure that would have a modest impact on the area but would conclude on behalf of DECC whether oil or gas reserves exist in this location that could contribute to the UK’s energy mix.”
See next week’s Observer (September 18) for a full report of the meeting.