Victory in Kirdford appeal costs from drilling company

Campaigners demonstrating earlier this year at Broadford Bridge
Campaigners demonstrating earlier this year at Broadford Bridge

ANTI-fracking campaigners in Kirdford and Wisborough Green are celebrating victory in their battle with shale oil and gas drilling company Celtique Energie over costs.

The secretary of state for communities and local government ordered Celtique to pay up this summer and the final payout has now been agreed.

When Celtique made an appeal against West Sussex County Council’s decision to refuse its application to drill on land between Kirdford and Wisborough Green in July last year it led to the prospect of a public inquiry, scheduled to be heard this year.

But in March the drilling company withdrew its appeal.

Although they have not revealed the amount, chairman of the Keep Kirdford and Wisborough Green group Dr Jill Sutcliffe said: “KKWG is delighted to have had the costs associated with the potential public inquiry repaid by Celtique.

“The group of local residents was judged to have been put to unnecessary work and expense after the company withdrew from the public inquiry on March 11.”

In the meantime Celtique is still in the High Court in a costs battle with co-owner of three licences in the central Weald basin, including the Broadford Bridge site at Adversane near Billingshurst.

Celtique has planning permission to drill on the site which has been prepared, but no drill has arrived. If this site is not drilled by July 2016, campaigners believe Celtique will have defaulted on its licence.

Dr Sutcliffe said: “We believe the money they are in the High Court to obtain is money they would need to develop the Broadford Bridge site.”

Celtique told the Observer it could not comment on the court case.

Asked to comment on the Billingshurst site, chief executive officer Geoff Davies said: “The Broadford Bridge site remains fallow, pending a decision on a drill date.”

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