Drilling company wants to put back Wisborough Green planning decision

A public meeting held in Wisborough Green to discuss the drilling plan*Pic by David McHugh
A public meeting held in Wisborough Green to discuss the drilling plan*Pic by David McHugh

THE anti-fracking campaign Keep Kirdford and Wisborough Green Frack Free has been given a boost after West Sussex County Council’s planning committee was recommended to refuse plans for an exploratory well on the borders of the two villages.

But now drilling company Celtique Energie wants the decision put back to September to give it time to respond.

The plan is due to go before county councillors on Tuesday (July 22).

But in a report to the planning committee, top officers Susan Hawker and Michael Elkington are recommending councillors to give it the thumbs-down after a damning highways authority report.

They said: “The applicant has failed to demonstrate the HGVs necessary to bring forward the development could be safely managed in the highway network.

“Furthermore the HGV route through the Wisborough Green conservation area, including past the village green, is considered to be detrimental to the character of the area.”

The officers said they believed the plan had the potential to result in ‘unacceptable adverse impacts on the highway network, local amenity and on the character of the area’.

Campaigners said they welcomed the ‘sensible decision’.

Brenda Pollack for Friends of the Earth said: “The impact on these lovely villages, and the families who live there, would be huge. The councillors on the planning committee must do the right thing and turn it down now.”

But Celtique Energie is pressing WSCC to defer its planning decision in the light of the highways objection so it can respond.

A spokesman said: “If that deferral request is not granted we will either elect to formally withdraw the application prior to the committee meeting on July 22, as is our right, and resubmit the entire application with the updated traffic section, or appeal. Sadly this resubmission route would result in another long period of uncertainty for local people and increase the cost of handling the application for WSCC, rate payers and Celtique Energie.”

Meanwhile an online e-petition calling on the county council to declare West Sussex a ‘frack-free zone’ has been set up.

If 3,000 signatures are submitted from West Sussex postal codes by July 20, the county council says it will initiate a debate.

A spokesman for Frack Free Fernhurst said: “We ask anyone who has not yet done so to sign the petition to be found on WSCC’s website entitled ‘We call on West Sussex County Council to declare West Sussex a ‘frack-free zone’. The deadline is tomorrow, July 20.”