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Go-ahead for testing at oil drilling site sparks fury

Campaigners have said oil drilling in Sussex "makes a mockery of the climate crisis"

Oil firm Angus Energy has said its appeal against the decision by West Sussex County Council to refuse permission for an extended well test at its Balcombe oil site has been upheld.

The Planning Inspectorate granted planning permission for two and a half years for Angus Energy.

The company said: “The Balcombe 2Z horizontal sidetrack was drilled in 2013 and permission for a flow test was granted in 2018. The test evidenced a definitive oil show with high flow rates for short periods.

“The planning permission expired prior to the completion of clean up operations leaving a quantity of, what the company subsequently determined to be, left-over drilling fluids from the 2013 operation.

“Hence a new planning permission was applied for in 2020 in order to complete the clean-up exercise and follow with an extended well test.

“As a consequence of yesterday’s decision by the Planning Inspectorate, the company is now capable of pursing this well test subject to satisfaction of planning conditions noted in the appeal decision as well as the determination of the variation to the environmental permit by the Environment Agency which we understand to be imminent.”

In response to the decision the countryside charity CPRE has branded the oil drilling activity in the area as a “mockery of the climate crisis”.

Paul Miner, Acting Director of Campaigns and Policy at CPRE, said: “This extraordinary decision defies belief. It makes a mockery of the climate crisis. And, after more than 800 people objected to the proposal. It also shows contempt for local democracy.

‘But this is not the end of the road. There will almost certainly now be a statutory legal challenge at the High Court.”

A spokesperson for West Sussex County Council told ELN: “The County Council is disappointed with the decision of the Planning Inspectorate to approve the application by Angus Energy for temporary planning permission for hydrocarbon exploration and appraisal at the Lower Stumble site near Balcombe, West Sussex.

“This follows the unanimous decision of the Planning Committee in March 2021 to refuse planning permission because there were no exceptional circumstances that would justify major development in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and it would not be in the public interest to permit the application.”

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