West Sussex County Council has agreed to an application by fracking firm Cuadrilla to start test drilling in Balcombe. The application was agreed despite furious protests against the firm and 900 objections from the public, reports The Argus.
The Balcombe site became the focus for a large numbers of anti-fracking protesters, including the former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP. She was arrested in August 2013 and charged with obstructing a public highway but was later found not guilty Brighton Magistrates’ Court.
Whilst Cuadrilla has said it will not carry out fracking at the Lower Stumble site, they will start test drilling. To do so they needed permission for the temporary exploration.
Brenda Pollack, from Friends of the Earth said: “This is an attempt by Cuadrilla to set the wheels in motion for dirty fossil fuel extraction. We need the council and our Government to push forward with clean energy solutions.
“The UK is the windiest country in Europe yet the Conservatives have just announced they would put a stop to new onshore wind power if re-elected in 2015.
“Allowing companies to drill underground for ever more difficult to extract oil and gas reserves is crazy when it won’t help keep bills or polluting emissions down. We have abundant clean sources of energy from the sun, wind and waves.
A spokeswoman for Cuadrilla said: “Cuadrilla welcomes the decision to approve the application. The next step will be to liaise with the county council about the conditions of the application.”
Although fracking has proved controversial, the British Geological Survey estimates UK shale gas resources may be 50 percent larger than conventional gas resources. The method has also led to significant reductions in energy prices in the US.
This decision brings widespread fracking in the UK closer and the move towards shale gas is backed by the Prime Minister, David Cameron. Last month he said fracking was “good for our country” and blamed a “lack of understanding” for opposition to it.