CPRE Sussex welcomes Balcombe oil exploration decision
CPRE Sussex welcomes the unanimous decision by West Sussex County Council’s Planning Committee to refuse permission to Angus Energy to continue oil exploration at their Balcombe oil well site.
The Committee’s decision overrides the recommendation by their planning officers to approve an application for a further assessment of the commercial viability of their prospect.
Subject to the possibility of an appeal against this decision, this brings to an end a decade’s disruption and uncertainty for the residents of Balcombe of finding long term oil production in their back yard. The site will now have to be decommissioned and restored to forestry use.
West Sussex County Council’s decision recognises that there are no exceptional circumstances that justify overriding the planning presumption that major development within the statutorily protected High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty should be refused, and that the supposed economic benefits of allowing fossil fuel exploitation are outweighed by the public interest in promoting the transition to a zero carbon economy.
CPRE Sussex has fought long and hard against this development, and continues to oppose all onshore fossil fuel exploitation.
But we still need to campaign hard for reform of the dangerous National Planning Policy Framework para 205: “When determining planning applications, great weight should be given to the benefits of mineral extraction, including to the economy …. and energy security“ as this is the hook on which the officers hung their recommendation, claiming that it was the most important planning factor (by implication more important than climate change mitigation, environment and conservation of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.