BREAKING NEWS: Decision on exploratory drilling extension due next week

DM17839309a.jpg Postcard protest outside County Hall, Chichester, against drilling for oil at Broadford Bridge near Billingshurst. Photo by Derek Martin. SUS-170908-111339008
DM17839309a.jpg Postcard protest outside County Hall, Chichester, against drilling for oil at Broadford Bridge near Billingshurst. Photo by Derek Martin. SUS-170908-111339008

A decision on an extension for exploratory drilling in Broadford Bridge could be made by county councillors next week.

UK Oil & Gas Investments (UKOG) started activities at the site off Adversane Lane earlier this year, but the temporary permission, granted by West Sussex County Council back in 2013, runs out in mid-September.

The company’s planning application for a 12-month extension is set to be heard by the council’s Planning Committee next Tuesday (September 12), with officers recommending approval subject to conditions.

Broadford Bridge Action Group has fought the application describing the drilling as an ‘invasion of the countryside’, while 374 objections were received, compared to 168 in support.

Friends of the Earth, Sussex Wildlife Trust, and the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s Sussex branch have also raised objections and concerns.

In their conclusion officers said: “The 12 month extension to allow for testing and appraisal and for the retention/restoration phases of the hydrocarbon exploration at the Broadford Bridge site has the potential to result in impacts on the highway, local residents, and the environment, issues that have been raised in the large number of objections to the application.

“However, no statutory objections have been received, although the local parish councils have raised matters to be reviewed.

“It is concluded that the number of vehicles required to carry out the remainder of the development is not significant enough to raise concerns regarding highway capacity or road safety. The site set-up during the remaining phases would have limited visibility, and would be during a limited time period and so would not have an adverse impact on the character of the area.

“The impacts of the development would be controlled through the planning regime as well as through the environmental permitting and health and safety regimes to ensure that water quality would not be compromised and that emissions to air would be acceptable.

“Overall, the extension of time to conclude the final phases of hydrocarbon exploration is considered to have minimal impacts, and the development would help to meet an identified need for local hydrocarbon exploration and appraisal.

“The development accords with the development plan and other material considerations, including the National Planning Policy Framework. Therefore, it is considered that the proposal is acceptable subject to the imposition of appropriate conditions to control the potential impacts as it progresses through the various stages of development.”

The meeting will be webcast live and can be watched here.

Due to the high level of interest in this application, members of the public wishing to attend the meeting will need to apply for a ticket.

There is a maximum number of 100 seats available in the public gallery at Parkside in Horsham and tickets will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

To apply for a ticket to the meeting, requests along with contact details need to be sent to Democratic.Services@westsussex.gov.uk.

People wishing to attend the meeting should note there is no public parking at Parkside.

Duncan Crow, chairman of the county council’s Planning Committee, said: “We are grateful for everyone’s cooperation and understanding in regards to the limited number of spaces in the public gallery.

“The county council appreciates that proposals in West Sussex for onshore oil and gas raise concerns for local residents and we would like to assure residents that, as a mineral planning authority (MPA), we take our responsibilities very seriously.”

More information about the Broadford Bridge site visit the county council’s website.

Last month actors James Bolam and Sue Jameson, who live in Wisborough Green, joined campaigners outside Chichester’s County Hall to demonstrate against continued drilling activities in Broadford Bridge.

Exploratory drilling at the controversial site has been underway since May with oil saturated rock samples taken from depths up to 4,080ft.

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