Hundreds of concerned villagers took to the country lanes between Wisborough Green and Kirdford on Sunday (October 19) in a last ditch attempt to register their objection to proposed exploratory drilling in the area.
The event, called Walk the Route, saw people mobilise from the two villages in a bid to demonstrate the strength of feeling against a planning application by Celtique Energie to construct a well-site on farmland adjacent to a nature reserve off the Kirdford Road.
“We were overwhelmed by the response to the event and would like to thank everyone who took part reflecting the concerns of local villagers opposed to the drilling application,” said Sharon Aldersley, of local campaign group www.no-drilling.co.uk.
“It was an organised walk and really did reinforce the fact that this site is totally inappropriate to be used as a major industrialised production facility.”
Amongst the throng were married actors James Bolam and Sue Jameson who have lived in Wisborough Green for more than 30 years.
“The public are really opposed to the possibility of an oil well in our villages and the thought of having heavy goods vehicles going up these lanes is just nonsensical,” said Mr Bolam, best-known for his roles in The Likely Lads, New Tricks and Grandpa in My Pocket.
Mrs Jameson, who often stars alongside her husband in television programmes, agreed, saying the proposed location of the exploratory drill site was ‘insane’ and that the walk was ‘very heartening’.
The couple said they were ‘absolutely’ confident the strength of public opinion against Celtique’s application would win the day when the issue goes before West Sussex County Council planners in due course. The opportunity to comment on application WSCC/083/13/KD ends today (Thursday, October 24).
Many of those on the walk have taken the opportunity to make formal objections through the planning process with concerns centring around a few key issues, including inadequate infrastructure, pollution, and the impact on wildlife.
The route from Wisborough Green took the walkers past the ancient woodland of Northup Copse, in which Sussex Wildlife Trust maintains a small nature reserve.
In its formal objection to Celtique Energie’s planning application the Trust has stated that ‘eight different bat species including Barbastelle were active within 25m of the proposed site, much closer to the site than was identified in the application’.
Nick Alderton, 58, who has lived on land abutting the proposed drill site for four years with his wife Miranda, said their hearts sank when they first learned of the application.
“We thought we had a little spot of heaven, surrounded by countryside where nothing could touch us, in lovely isolation and beautiful nature,” said the proprietor of a menswear order company.
A keen supporter of the Keep Wisborough and Kirdford Green Campaign, Mr Alderton said: “As awareness in the village has grown, now 99 per cent of people are against it I would say.”
75-year-old Doris Smallwood from Wisborough Green talked of the ‘huge feeling of camaraderie’ on the walk and said the event gave her ‘huge confidence’ in the ultimate rejection of the application.
In response to hundreds of villagers from Wisborough Green and Kirdford voting with their feet on Sunday, the chief executive of Celtique Energie told the County Times: “We have met many people who are in favour of undertaking exploratory drilling in the Weald and at this site.
“However we recognise that there are also people who are opposed to this activity and of course we respect their right to make their views known.”
The energy firm’s boss added: “Celtique believe the proposed site to be an excellent location for drilling, however, Celtique will not be granted planning permission unless West Sussex County Council is satisfied with the application, nor will we be granted the necessary approvals and permits for drilling from the Environment Agency, DECC and HSE unless we are fully compliant.”
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By Theo Cronin | firstname.lastname@example.org | 01403 751 233 | @theocronin | Do you have a story?