A new government report showing more areas across Britain where it will grant licences to drill for shale oil and gas means all eyes are now turned on Fernhurst and The South Downs National Park Authority.
Celtique Energie’s application for an exploration well on Nine Acre Copse will be a test case for shale gas drilling applications across the country when it comes before members next year.
Brenda Pollack, Friends of the Earth South East campaigner visited the Fernhurst site and also the Wisborough Green site to be decided by West Sussex County Council, to give support to FFF protesters.
She said: “The government seems to be bending over backwards to open the door for more unconventional drilling.
“The new techniques have caused real and serious problems in other countries – we are not scare mongering. More evidence is coming forward every day about the impacts and I have met people who don’t trust that our regulatory system will work effectively.
“Dangling financial sweeteners in front of communities to get them to accept dirty fracking schemes, which will keep the nation hooked on climate-changing fossil fuels, is a disgrace.”
Leading FFF campaigner Martyn Knights said: “This particular site is so inappropriate for all sort of reasons. If permission is granted here in the new national park, then nowhere in the country will be safe.
“This makes us more determined that this plan will not occur here. The government announcement means a whole raft of people across the county will face the same threats.”
Closer to home anti-fracking campaigners believe potential sites have already been identified in other parts of the park at Rogate and Iping.
The government stepped up its support for shale gas after the report on Tuesday said large scale production of shale oil and gas could create thousands of jobs and give almost one billion pounds to local communities.
The report, produced for the government by engineering giant Amec, also set out the potential effects of shale oil and gas production.
Energy minister Michael Fallon said: “There could be large amounts of shale gas available in the UK, but we won’t know for sure the scale of this prize until further exploration takes place.”