Balcombe anti-fracking campaigners lose High Court appeal

Caroline Lucas protesting against fracking in Balcombe
Caroline Lucas protesting against fracking in Balcombe
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Campaigners have lost their High Court appeal to block fracking in Balcombe.

Energy company Cuadrilla’s plan for oil and gas exploration has been hotly contested by residents’ groups, who claim it is unlawful.

Police lead a fracking rig to Cuadrilla's Balcombe site amid protests

Police lead a fracking rig to Cuadrilla's Balcombe site amid protests

West Sussex County Council granted permission for Cuadrilla to undertake works at Lower Stumble in May.

Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association argued that when deciding to grant permission councillors were misdirected as to the legal relevance of a number of fundamental considerations, such as Cuadrilla’s past conduct during its previous activities in Balcombe and to the legal relevance of the scale of local opposition.

The energy company’s most recent application was for exploration and appraisal of the recently drilled hydrocarbon lateral borehole, together with a new 14 metre high flare on the site.

Brenda Pollack, Friends of the Earth South East campaigner, said: “This is a very disappointing ruling when you consider how let down the villagers of Balcombe feel by the planning system and the Council’s decision-making process.

“Residents have been dealt a poor hand in this case, as they suffered a huge amount of disruption last summer, with noise from the drilling and extra lorries in their village.

“The level of opposition in Balcombe and across the country shows that companies like Cuadrilla have no social license to operate. It also shows that the public do not have trust in the bodies that are meant to protect us and our environment.”

But West Sussex County Council welcome today’s decision.

A spokesman said: “Our planning committee has to make decisions based on the merits of individual applications while adhering to national guidelines and policies.

“We maintain the neutrality of our committee when it seeks to balance the competing interests in such applications – it’s absolutely crucial to the process and the High Court has supported our work in doing just that.

“We were confident that we had been absolutely fair in our approach to a very complex decision and the court has reinforced that.”