Residents are gearing up for another battle after Cuadrilla announced it plans to submit a new planning application to test its oil well in a Sussex village.
The oil and gas exploration company was granted planning permission for its site in Lower Stumble, Balcombe, in May 2014 to flow test and monitor the exploration well, which was drilled in the summer of 2013, but this permission has now expired.
The site was the target of a vociferous campaign by groups opposed to the use of the technique known as fracking, properly called hydraulic fracturing.
The controversial process uses large quantities of water, sand and some chemicals to fracture rock to release gas or oil.
At the time Cuadrilla gave an ‘unequivocal assurance’ to Balcombe Parish Council and said it would not be using fracking.
However, thousands of people marched in protest on the site in 2013, when Cuadrilla came in to drill the exploratory well.
We said no, we mean no. Not just in Balcombe but everywhere.Resident Di Forster
It said in a statement this week that the well requires no hydraulic fracturing because the rock is ‘naturally fractured’.
Resident Kathryn McWhirter said: “Balcombe village has voted three times, and each time a strong majority opted to keep oil and gas exploration of any kind out of our village. Cuadrilla are not wanted here.
“We expected this application in September. We are ready for it, and shall oppose it.
“We are opposed not only to fracking (and we accept that at this stage they do not intend to frack) but also to the sister process of acidisation, and to any oil exploration here.”
Resident Charles Metcalfe said: “The village voted back in 2012 and 2013 that we did not want an oil company exploring and producing oil or gas in our parish.
“Although there has been no poll since then, I would estimate that this position has not changed.
“If anything, I would say that it has hardened against Cuadrilla (or any other company).
“In addition, we would not welcome the increased traffic, with its increased pollution.
“We do not want our drinking water to be at risk of pollution, or the air we breathe polluted by noxious substances from the flare blown straight over the centre of the village.”
Resident Di Forster said the industry ‘did not care about the wellbeing of communities’.
“We said no, we mean no. Not just in Balcombe but everywhere,” she added.