Villagers wept with relief as plans for exploratory drilling between Kirdford and Wisborough Green were thrown out by the county council today (Tuesday July 22).
Almost 100 members of the public cheered, wept and hugged each other as West Sussex County Council’s Planning Committee rejected Celtique’s bid for a temporary well off Kirdford Road near Northup Copse.
Planning officers had recommended the application be refused on highways safety and capacity grounds and councillors concurred.
After the meeting Phil Donoghue, who spoke in opposition on behalf of Keep Kirdford and Wisborough Green, said: “We are absolutely delighted, but we do understand it’s round one, but the council have decided in the way we wanted them to.”
He said they expected Celtique could appeal against the decision, but he hoped they would abandon the site and find somewhere more suitable.
Actress Sue Jameson, who has lived in Wisborough Green for more than 30 years, added: “It’s been 18 months of nervous hell really and anxiety about the horrors to come.”
While Celtique were primarily looking for conventional energy deposits, they have stated they would have been taking data on shale rock, and campaigners feared this could have been the first step towars the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing.
Fracking involves pumping chemicals and water underground at high pressure to split apart porous shale rock to release trapped oil or gas.
Celtique had called for the application to be deferred to allow officers time to digest new information it had provided on Friday, which it believed had addressed all the outstanding highways concerns.
But members voted to debate and decide on the application today.
Local member Janet Duncton (Con, Petworth) urged her fellow councillors to reject the application to protect two ‘quintessentially English villages’.
She added: “This is the wrong place that’s all there is to say about it. It’s the wrong place.”
Lionel Parsons (UKIP, Sompting and North Lancing) felt the application would lead to the ‘decimation’ of village life in Wisborough Green with lorries driving through the village.
Simon Oakley (Con, Chichester East) said he had looked through Celtique’s updated information on highways and could not see anything to make him go against the officers’ recommendation and raised concerns about the junction of Durbans Road and the A272.
Duncan Crow (Con, Tilgate and Furnace Green) added: “What I do see the highways grounds they feel overwhelming, they are conclusive. The county council do not object to planning applications on a whim.”
As well as rejecting it on highways grounds the committee added another reason, citing site selection as it felt Celtique had not demonstrated the location was the best option compared to alternatives.
What do you think of the decision? Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For the full report and reaction see this Thursday’s paper.