BREAKING NEWS: Cuadrilla withdraws drilling application

Balcombe has been the site of protest for weeks
Balcombe has been the site of protest for weeks

Energy company Cuadrilla has withdrawn an application today (Tuesday September 3) for a six month extension to its planning permission for exploratory drilling at Balcombe.

West Sussex County Council confirmed today that a meeting of its Planning Committee scheduled for September 19 has been cancelled.

The applications were the only agenda items for the meeting.

Under the terms of the planning permission approved in 2010, exploratory drilling work on the site in London Road, Balcombe, must end by September 28, 2013.

The company has confirmed to the county council that a new planning application regarding the completion of operations at Balcombe will be lodged in the near future.

The new application would not go in front of the Planning Committee until a date in 2014.

A statement today from the council said: “We cannot comment on Cuadrilla’s decision as it is a matter for the company.

“Any future applications for Balcombe, or by other companies in other locations, will be considered by the Planning Committee, which will consider all the evidence and representations during a consultation period, following the normal planning process.”

A spokesperson for Cuadrilla said: “Cuadrilla has decided to submit a new planning application to cover the flow testing of the orizontal oil exploration well at its site at Lower Stumble, Balcombe.

“The new application will cover the same well testing that is in the currently permitted activity but will include revised planning boundary lines showing the extent of the horizontal well being tested.

“It will not include additional drilling or any hydraulic fracturing.

“Our original planning application was approved in 2010 with a boundary delineation covering the surface drilling site area.

“Our decision to make a new application for the well testing activity, rather than an extension of previously approved activity, is to resolve any potential legal ambiguity around how the planning boundary should be drawn for a subsurface horizontal well.

“As this is a new planning application, the County Council will consult with interested third parties and we will have the opportunity for further engagement with Balcombe residents about our well testing plans.

“We will continue doing all we can to conclude our exploration work in a safe, responsible and timely manner.”

Louisa Delpy villager and member of No Fracking in Balcombe Socieity (NoFIBs) said: “This is a victory for our campaign and we thank everyone who raised objections. But we know that the problem has not gone away. We are now in limbo and ask West Sussex County Council urgently to explain the reasons why Cuadrilla must resubmit the planning application and whether testing and flaring has been carried out on the vertical well section.

“We also want to know the current direction and length of the horizontal section of the well; how they can test drill into oil without a flare; and how they can operate and test right now without their permit to extract radioactive substances, about which the Environment Agency has maintained a curious silence since public consultation ended.”