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West Sussex County Council ignores environmental concerns and grants approval for oil exploration at Broadford Bridge

Wednesday, 13 September 2017 14:49

Despite a strong objection from CPRE Sussex, WSCC today (12th September) approved an application by KOGL for an extension to oil exploration at Broadford Bridge, West Chiltington Parish, Horsham District.. Dr Roger Smith spoke at the hearing  - his speech is below.


Amendment of condition no. 2 of planning permission WSCC/052/12/WC to allow for a further 12 months of continued operations to enable the completion of phase 3 testing and phase 4 restoration or retention

Woodbarn Farm, Adversane Lane, Broadford Bridge, Billingshurst, RH149ED

For WSCC hearing 12 September 2017

I am Dr Roger Smith. I speak for CPRE Sussex.

1.    The NPPF stipulates that : “Planning policies and decisions should be based on up-todate information about the natural environment and other characteristics of the area“.

1.1.    This application seems to be dependent in large part on an Environmental Statement, submitted in support of the original application – in 2012, which was informed by ecological surveys and appraisals undertaken - in 2011.

1.2    Therefore, contrary to the NPPF, the application is not based on up-to-date information.

2.    Moreover, there is information given in the application bundle that is inaccurate - and therefore misleading.

2.1    This matters greatly, because, as the NPPF reminds us, “The right information is crucial to good decision making”.

3.    Under the heading ‘Land Contamination at the Drill Site’, sub heading ‘Release of Contaminated Run-off, Consequential Effects on Protected Areas’’, the Environmental Statement advises that
“The lack of any protected areas within 10km of the site is such that this potentially adverse effect is not significant and may be classified as negligible”.

3.1    In reality, however, there are designated Special Sites of Scientific Interest, Special Protection Areas and a designated Ramsar site within 10km of the drill site.

3.2    SSSIs and SPAs are among the most protected and important areas in the country, whilst the Ramsar designation denotes wetland of international importance.

3.3    The failure to identify and declare their presence is therefore a significant oversight, which must bring into question the quality and reliability of other information presented in the application bundle.

4.    According to the Applicant’s completed Planning Application form, signed off 6 July 2017, “there are no trees or hedges on land adjacent to the proposed development site that could influence the development or might be important as part of the local landscape character “.  

4.1    In reality, however, the drill site lies in close proximity to designated Ancient and Semi-Natural Woodland, in which there are trees, and also in close proximity to hedges. 

4.2    Woodland and hedges are highly visible elements within the local landscape and therefore make a significant and important contribution to the area’s landscape character. 

4.3    Whether the woodland and hedges, the presence of which is denied by whosoever completed the application form, would be harmed by the drilling operation is an important planning consideration.

4.4    Unfortunately, details of the chemical products that would be used at the site, including toxicological data, seem not to have been provided.

5.    The applicant’s Planning Statement also advises that the site is not within 1km of any area designated for nature conservation and was therefore of “low” ecological value “.

5.1    However, the Ancient & Semi-natural woodland, to which I have just drawn attention, is within 1km of the site – and Natural England advises that Ancient & Semi-natural woodland is an irreplaceable habitat - of high ecological value.

6.    I note that Natural England in its email to Mr Bartlett, 26 July 2017, has no comment to make on the amendment to condition 2, but asks the Council to assess whether the changes proposed will materially affect any of the advice previously offered before sending them further consultations regarding this development.

6.1    Was Natural England advised by the Council that the present application is dependent in large part on an Environmental Statement, submitted in support of the original application – in 2012, which was informed by ecological surveys and appraisals undertaken - in 2011?

7.    Limited surveys and appraisals of the area’s ecology and assessments of the impact that the development could or would have on protected species were undertaken in 2011 on the then understanding that works were to be completed between October and February, therefore four months- and that any resulting impacts would be temporary in consequence.

7.1    Consequently, how operations at the site over an extended period could or would impact on protected species, including bats and breeding birds, including during the months  when birds breed, has not been assessed – and should have been assessed.

7.2    This omission makes nonsense of the advice, given in the Planning Application form submitted by the applicant that there are no protected and priority species either on land adjacent to or near to the proposed scheme that are likely to be effected by the proposals.

7.3    Please note that according to the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre, some 18 protected species with either National or International designations have been recorded on land at Woodbarn Farm.

7.4    Up-to-date surveys and impact assessments that are needed to enable the Council to exercise its functions, as required by ‘The Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 and by Government Circular 06/2005: ‘Biodiversity and Geological Conservation-Statutory Obligations, have not been provided. 

8.    CPRE Sussex therefore asks that you refuse this application.

R F Smith DPhil, BA (Hons), FRGS
Trustee CPRE Sussex

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