Rural drilling proposal under public scrutiny

JPCT 220612  Public exhibition on Celtique's plans to drill for gas south of Billingshurst. tuart Catterall from Celtique talking to visitors John and Sandra Stephens. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 220612 Public exhibition on Celtique's plans to drill for gas south of Billingshurst. tuart Catterall from Celtique talking to visitors John and Sandra Stephens. Photo by Derek Martin

The public had an opportunity to view prospective drilling plans for Broadford Bridge near West Chiltington last weekend.

Celtique Energie is consulting with members of the public before submitting a planning application to explore for gas and oil off Adversane Lane at Woodbarn Farm.

County, district and parish councillors were also invited to view the plans and talk to the company’s chief executive and chief operating officer.

John Stephens, from Broadford Bridge, said: “We’re not particularly concerned about the short term obstructions, it’s only the long-term running of the site we’re interested in.”

He and his wife Sandra expressed concern that a very rural area might be affected by 70 new workers coming into the area, but added that it was good to see all the information up front, rather than looking at a planning application that they knew nothing about.

After digesting the public’s responses, which has a deadline of Tuesday July 3, the firm will submit the application to West Sussex County Council as the local minerals planning authority for the two-hectare site.

If approved, the structures will take six weeks to install, then it will take another six to eight weeks to explore.

If the company finds sizeable deposits, it will have to submit a field development plan to the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and gain planning permission for a permanent production facility.

Harvey Steele, West Chiltington parish councillor, said: “They have gone to a lot of trouble to tell people what it’s all about and explained what’s involved in the operation.

“They’ve taken the environment into account and done a first class job.”

“They’ve also tried to choose a site that is screened from the public.”

A West Chiltington resident who did not want to be named, expressed his frustration at the information presented.

He said: “They’re representing themselves as a British company when the majority of their investors are American.

“There’s no mention on any of their boards of West Chiltington. I find that a bit odd, that they are being so coy about not talking about West Chiltington as that’s where this site is.”

Bob Phillips, Shipley parish councillor, who is also heavily involved with the Scouts in the area, said he would like to take the youngsters to the site, if approved, to fire their interest in engineering or geology.

County councillor Pat Arculus (Con, Pulborough) added: “They have got a very good exhibition and I hope that members of the public do have a look at it.

“I will have to wait and see what my residents say, but I personally think it’s an exciting opportunity.”

Stuart Catterall, chief operating officer for Celtique, said: “The verbal and written feedback we received from the event indicates that the vast majority of people came away from the exhibition better informed about our proposals, which is important for us as a company committed to open and transparent engagement.”

He added: “We are fully committed to having an ongoing dialogue with the community and will continue to engage with local residents to update them on the progress of the proposals over the coming months.”

Comments can be sent to consultation@celtiqueenergie.com or by calling 0800 023 2148.

For more information visit the dedicated page at www.celtiqueenergie.com/woodbarnfarm