Extension granted for well site near Billingshurst

UK Oil and Gas has been given an extra two years to restore the site of its Billingshurst well while it studies data collected from other drill sites.

Thursday, 9th July 2020, 1:00 pm
Entrance to Broadford Bridge site (photo from Google Maps Street View)

Two applications were approved by West Sussex County Council’s planning committee on Tuesday (July 7) for the site at Woodbarn Farm, Broadford Bridge.

The first allowed security fencing, gates and cabins to stay up, while the second extended the time UKOG had to decide whether to restore the site or apply for permission to carry on working there.

This site opened in 2014 and this is the third time the company has been granted an extension.

UKOG said it needed more time to analyse data from drill sites in Horse Hill, the Weald Basin, and one planned for Loxley, in Surrey, to work out if the Broadford Bridge site was viable.

The council received hundreds of letters opposing the extension.

During the meeting, Dr Jill Sutcliffe, chair of the Keep Kirdford and Wisborough Green group, told members of the committee they had a ‘duty of care’ to the people of West Sussex.

The environmental scientist said Adversane residents had endured ‘enormous disruption’ when the site was drilled, adding: “[UKOG] has stated repeatedly that if they found nothing they would stop and restore the site. They’ve found nothing so they should go.”

Caroline Instance, of Thakeham, accused the council of ‘inconsistency’.

She said: “You’ve acknowledged that there is a climate emergency and, through the climate pledge have encouraged council taxpayers to reduce their carbon footprint.

“But it seems to me completely hypocritical of the council to continue to allow something that would lead to fossil fuel or hydrocarbon extraction at the same time.

“If we want to use less carbon, clearly we don’t need to extract more from the ground.”

The meeting was reminded that, since the outbreak of the pandemic, more and more oil-produced items such as PPE and perspex screens had been used.

Pat Arculus (Con, Pulborough) stressed the need for alternatives to be found but saw no reason to refuse the application.

She said: “As much as it’s annoying and I would like the site restored – and I’m hoping that it never does become viable or is needed – I cannot see that the delay is actually going to do any harm.

“It’s an irritant and an annoyance but I’m not sure that forcing the restoration early has any benefits.

“What I’m more worried about is when it does get restored that the money is there and the restoration is done properly.”

Adding a condition to the application that no floodlighting should be used at the site, members approved the plans by ten votes to one.

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