A total of almost 300 residents attended two separate meetings in Wisborough Green and Kirdford to discuss possible exploratory drilling at a site between the villages.
After consultation with residents earlier this year Celtique Energie has submitted a planning application to West Sussex County Council for a temporary well site to test for commercial oil and gas, but will also be logging data for the presence of shale oil and gas.
Both Kirdford and Wisborough Green parish councils organised separate meetings last week to give residents an opportunity to make their views known on proposals for the site off Kirdford Road south of Northup Copse.
Around 158 residents attended the meeting at Kirdford Church on Monday, with up to 125 people at Wisborough Green Village Hall.
Celtique have emphasised that the application will not involve hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, but residents remain fearful that this represents the first step towards it.
Fracking involves pumping water and chemicals underground at high pressure to crack apart porous shale rock to released trapped oil and gas, and the process has provoked safety concerns.
Di Haines, who lives in Wisborough Green, highlighted the need to ‘act fast’ to stop the plans at the meeting on Tuesday. She said: “How far do we let this testing go before it is too late to stop it? The impact on the village will already be done. If we let it go that far, there will be no turning back.”
Key concerns included the movement of heavy-duty vehicles and the convoy of trucks that would be needed to transport the large drilling rig through the village, the visual impact upon the area, wildlife conservation and water supplies.
Geoff Davies, chief executive officer at Celtique said: “We recognise that the vehicle movements associated with the proposals has been a key issue for many and we have responded positively by including a number of traffic calming measures in our final application.”
He continued: “We are aware that there is significant interest locally over the role of hydraulic fracturing at our proposed well site. As we have consistently stated, Celtique is not applying for hydraulic fracturing as part of this planning application.”
However, Celtique has said that if tests for shale deposits are positive they may wish to submit another application for a new well at the same site for hydraulic fracturing.