Balcombe; Cuadrilla Applies For New Licence

Fracking firm Cuadrilla has withdrawn an application seeking a six-month extension of its oil exploration in a Sussex village which has been the scene of protests.

The company said it has decided to submit a new planning application to cover the flow testing of the horizontal oil exploration well at its site in Lower Stumble, Balcombe.

A statement said: "he new application will cover the same well testing that is in the currently permitted activity but will include revised planning boundary lines showing the extent of the horizontal well being tested. It will not include additional drilling or any hydraulic fracturing.

"Our original planning application was approved in 2010 with a boundary delineation covering the surface drilling site area.

"Our decision to make a new application for the well testing activity, rather than an extension of previously approved activity, is to resolve any potential legal ambiguity around how the planning boundary should be drawn for a subsurface horizontal well.

"As this is a new planning application, the county council will consult with interested third parties and we will have the opportunity for further engagement with Balcombe residents about our well testing plans.

"We will continue doing all we can to conclude our exploration work in a safe, responsible and timely manner.''

Greenpeace energy campaigner Leila Deen said Cuadrilla's plans for Balcombe were a "dog's dinner'', adding: "They only recently submitted an application to extend the drilling window, now they've already withdrawn it and admitted they're reassessing the programme.

"It's not yet clear if this is a shift of direction or if the company merely got its sums wrong. Either way, the local council has the opportunity to revisit its previous highly controversial decision to give Cuadrilla the green light in Balcombe. The poster boy for fracking looks like it's in trouble again.''

A meeting of West Sussex County Council's planning committee on September 19 has been cancelled following the withdrawal of the application.

Any new application will not go to the planning committee until next year.

Anti-fracking protesters have been camping by the roadside near the test oil drilling site for weeks.