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Friends of the Earth has written to West Sussex County Council following concerns that fracking firm Cuadrilla may be drilling near Balcombe in breach of its existing planning permission, the environment charity said today (Thursday 5 September 2013).

Friends of the Earth wrote to the council today after Cuadrilla revealed on Tuesday (3 September 2013) that it had withdrawn a planning application to extend its current exploratory drilling planning permission at Balcombe for a further six months because of its failure to set out the full extent of its horizontal drilling plans. The firm says it intends to submit a fresh application later this month to “resolve any potential legal ambiguity”.

In its letter to West Sussex County Council, Friends of the Earth says Cuadrilla appears to have conceded that its existing planning permission doesn’t allow horizontal drilling beyond the boundaries of the surface site. The environment charity says that if the new application was withdrawn because it was flawed, then it’s highly likely the existing permission is too.

Friends of the Earth has asked the council to confirm as a matter of urgency:

(a)  whether the company intends to drill beyond the surface boundaries of the site;

(b)  whether the well already extends beyond the surface boundaries;

(c)  the action it will take to ensure that no breach of the existing planning permission occurs, or where it has already occurred, that it ceases with immediate effect.

Friends of the Earth’s Head of Campaigns Andrew Pendleton said:

“West Sussex County Council must urgently clarify whether Cuadrilla’s exploratory drilling at Balcombe breaches existing planning permission – and if so, what steps it will take to stop it.

“Public confidence will be further undermined if Cuadrilla is allowed to drill in breach of its permission.”


Notes to editors:

1. Friends of the Earth’s letter to West Sussex County Council

2. Cuadrilla’s letter to Balcombe residents on the withdrawal of its planning application extension.

3. Friends of the Earth press release (Tuesday 3 September): Govt aims to reform planning rules as Cuadrilla forced to withdraw drilling application.

4. Earlier this week the Government announced that it was consulting on plans to end the right of people to be notified about drilling under their homes and land – a move that has been slammed by Friends of the Earth as a further bulldozing of community rights on shale gas and oil exploration.

5. On 11 August 2013, David Cameron wrote in the Sunday Telegraph: “Local people will not be cut out and ignored. We are issuing very firm guidance: firms looking to frack should make people aware of their plans well before they apply for a permit. Dialogue is important and if residents express specific concerns, then companies should take them on board.”

6. Shale: Cuadrilla must apply for waste permits before Sussex test drilling, Friends of the Earth press release, June 2013.

7. Friends of the Earth’s briefing on shale gas.

If you're a journalist looking for press information please contact the Friends of the Earth media team on 020 7566 1649.


Published by Friends of the Earth Trust