Open letter from the residents of Balcombe dealing with the incompetence of West Sussex CC and other agencies to properly monitor and regulate drilling activities

Stream next to Cuadrilla drilling site in Balcombe

Stream next to Cuadrilla drilling site in Balcombe

Here is an open letter from the residents of Balcombe.  It deals with the incompetence of West Sussex CC and other agencies to properly monitor and regulate the drilling activities at Balcombe.  Yet, this Government and the local authorities insist that, should planning permission be granted, they can guarantee that drilling would be conducted safely.......Dream on.

We in Balcombe have had a pretty miserable summer due the unconventional exploratory drilling operation by Cuadrilla in our village.

We have fought to be heard by the government, West Sussex County Council, the Environment agency, DECC and the Health and Safety Executive. We went to every planning meeting, we objected to planning, thousands have signed our petitions; we’ve lobbied the Environment Agency ( 9000 signatures on the Mining Waste Permit and 890 enquiries- the permit was passed within 72hours of receiving the bulk of those questions and they were never answered) the HSE, our MPs and our councillors. A door to door survey in the village showed that 85% of this village did and does NOT want Cuadrilla here, the industrialisation of our area of outstanding natural beauty and the unacceptable risks to the purity of our water, our air and soil. We, and many committed people have done everything humanly possible within the bounds of law to stop this industry despoiling our rural community and we have got nowhere and we have not been heard.

We are proud to call ourselves Balcombe residents AND protestors and protectors of our land. The majority of the village supported the protest camp, and marched in our hundreds down there. What else could we do? There has been nothing democratic about this whole process, and in fact I'm sure you know the government are legislating to bypass all local planning.

And we need to protest because the West Sussex County Council has done nothing to help us and everything to facilitate Cuadrilla. Where is our apology from the council for allowing this to disrupt our village life for months in the first place, for allowing up to 120 trucks and tankers on our road weekly ? Where is our apology for allowing trucks in to the site past agreed deadlines? Where is our apology for providing incorrect information that an extension would be a full planning application and then it turns out to be a “minor amendment”? Where will the council officers be when the 13.7m flare which did not have planning permission, is lit? Where are the enforcement officers? We needed the council to enforce the constant breaches of planning by Cuadrilla, which were not being enforced. In what sort of organisation or structure of decision makers allows an oil company to potentially risk our water supply, the road safety of primary school children but takes action against allowing peaceful, lawful protest? In what sort of organisation does it take 5 weeks to release a report on excessive drilling noise, causing weeks of sleepless nights, and in the meantime forcing Balcombe residents to do their own monitoring to prove the breaches? What sort of organisation allowed drilling to go ahead knowing there was not enough time to complete the operations at the site or without the correct planning for horizontal drilling. ?The council needs to provide answers and as yet our questions, letters, emails, phone calls are not being answered.

So you see, Mr Hickish we really dont "have a say" at all . The Balcombe Parish Council in the national press and TV, apologized profusely as the application never saw the light of day. Re; your "stringent regulations" there appear to be very few, Cuadrilla have been sending a weekly "catch up" fax to the authorities, we believe the HSE didn't even visit this major industrial site for the entire time Cuadrilla were active. We residents in Balcombe, the FOE lawyers and our MEP forced Cuadrilla to delay drilling for four weeks to get Mining Waste and Radioactive Permits which they hadn't done previously in the North, even though they had applied for the licence 3 years before!. The Radioactive Permit was only issued 2 days after Cuadrilla left the site. More concerning, we have just had a gill stream go fluorescent green down its entire length, 75 yards from the well pad last Monday, it was reported early afternoon by numerous residents, and the EA only arrived at night to take samples, went to the wrong stream, so came back the following day at lunchtime...They haven't been back and they still have not found the source, they havent had the results back, though they think its harmless. If this is an example of their "emergency pollution incident plan" God help us all if there's a toxic spill!

With statements vehemently opposing hydraulic fracturing from the RSPB, The Woodland Trust, Sussex Wildlife Trust, the Angling Trust, The National Trust and one of our greatest landowners, Lord Cowdray, we hope very much residents will follow the positive leads of these organisations and protest against the government, this billion dollar industry and their massive PR machine white washing this filthy industry invading our country

Kind regards,

Juliette Harris,
Bernadette O’Grady, Georgia Law, Louisa Delpy, Tessa Land Smith, Debbie Stacey James, Duncan Smith, Beth Sanderson, Lori Johnson Seymour, Sarah Hirst, Anne Boxall, Jullian Fitzsimmons, Jackie Bedson, Di Pospisil, Shirley Bliss, Helen Savage, Sue Taylor
(Balcombe Residents)