West Sussex County Council has turned down an application from oil and gas exploration firm Celtique Energie to drill near the Wisborough Green conservation area.
After a debate attended by around 100 people, the council’s planning committee rejected the plans on Tuesday afternoon. They cited concerns over noise pollution, road access and the environmental impact of fracking.
“There were simply too many highways issues and other issues of concern for any decision other than refusal in this instance,” said councillor Heidi Brunsdon.
Before their rejection, Celtique’s controversial plans to evaluate the area’s potential for fracking rallied fervent opposition.
Former Tory minister Nick Herbert called the proposed exploration “careless”, while one academic labelled the plans as “incomplete, incompetent and disingenuous”.
Commenting on the announcement, Brenda Pollack, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said, “This was absolutely the right decision.
“Nobody wants to see Sussex ruined by industrial drilling for dirty fossil fuels. If Celtique had been allowed to test for oil or gas, then there’s every chance that fracking would have followed.
“Local people would have seen their peaceful neighbourhoods shattered by the drilling and the extra lorries and other industrial traffic that comes with it. It has been clear from the start that this application must be refused for a range of reasons.”
It is thought that vast reserves of shale oil sit beneath southern England. Encouraged by the government, fracking firms have battled for the right to be the first to extract it.
Fracking works by blasting rocks with water and chemicals, which then fracture the rocks and release the shale gas or oil contained within them. This process has been linked to water contamination, an increased risk of earthquakes, and further leakage of methane at drill sites.
Experts have warned that much more research is needed into the possible impacts of fracking on human health.
Photo: Frack Free Fernhurst via Twitter