Planning committee turn down Celtique Energie application to explore for shale gas and oil near Fernhurst in West SussexAdam Vaughan Thursday 11 September 2014
An energy company’s bid to drill for shale oil and gas in the UK’s newest national park has been rejected.
On Thursday, the 11 officials on the planning committee of the South Downs National Park Authority voted unanimously to turn down an application by Celtique Energie to undertake exploratory drilling as a precursor to fracking at Fernhurst in West Sussex.
A spokeswoman for the SDNPA said: “The applicant had failed to demonstrate that exceptional circumstances exist and that it would be in the public interest for the activity to take place in a protected area.”
But while local residents who had opposed the application celebrated and waved placards outside the planning meeting in Midhurst, Celtique Energie immediately said it believed ministers would overturn the decision if it appealed the decision.
Geoff Davies, the company’s CEO, said: “We believe SDNPA officers appear to have made their recommendation and the committee appears to have made its decision based on a subjective and unjustified interpretation of planning guidance.
“The decision fails to take into consideration the importance of this project to the nation and the comprehensive steps Celtique would be taking to ensure that all exploration work would be done sensitively during the very temporary period we would be working in the national park.”
Environmental and rural campaigners were delighted with the planning decision. Brenda Pollack, south-east campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “This is a victory for common sense – there should be no place for shale oil or gas exploration in our national parks. But thousands of communities across the country still face the threat of fracking in their backyard.”
Simon Clydesdale, Greenpeace UK’s climate and energy campaigner, said: “With their second consecutive no to fracking, Sussex authorities have sent a clear signal that the county is not prepared to be the testing lab for this inexperienced and controversial industry.”
Emma Marrington, National Park campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, which campaigned for the park’s creation, added: “We welcome the common sense decision not to allow industrialisation of the UK’s newest national park through oil and gas exploration.”
A rejection looked likely after the SDNPA planning officers earlier this month recommended the committee turn down the bid, on the grounds that Celtique Energie had failed to demonstrate the “exceptional circumstances” required for drilling in national parks. Earlier in the summer, local highway officials said the company had underplayed the impact from lorry noise.
A recent poll for the Guardian showed the majority of the British public think fracking in national parks should be banned.
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