FRACK Free Fernhurst has found itself a powerful ally in the shape of Lord Cowdray who moved from Cowdray Park House to the village two years ago.
He is strongly opposed to plans by Celtique Energie to drill for oil and gas on the Nine Acre Copse site off Vann Road in Fernhurst.
And 18 months ago he refused the company permission to put an exploratory well on his land.
He said he had carried out initial research which left him with grave concerns.
He is now working with the Frack Free Fernhurst campaign group in a bid to stop the plans going ahead on the site which sits in the South Downs National Park and an area of outstanding natural beauty.
And Lord Cowdray has enlisted the help of Southampton University law graduate Joe Attridge.
“We are trying to do as much research as we can,” he said. “We need to ensure we are knowledgeable about what fracking really means and what has taken place in other parts of the world, the materials that are in use and the problems being experienced.”
His main concerns centre around the potential for ground water and aquifer pollution from the toxic mixture of chemicals which could be added to the millions of gallons of sand and water used during drilling.
He wants to see rigid safeguards introduced by government to protect affected communities and their environment.
The well proposed at Fernhurst would be 8,500 feet deep and said Lord Cowdray: “It would be difficult to ensure its integrity was sound all the way down.”
There should, he said be safeguards in place with a government sponsored third party regularly monitoring the wells.
“There is no monitoring like that because the government is so determined this is going to proceed they have not put sufficient safeguards in place to ensure companies are operating in the most safety conscious way,” he said.
Lord Cowdray also has concerns about the ability of operating companies to cope with contamination problems should they arise.
“I believe the company in this case has very few assets and a negative balance sheet, it also has no obligations to have insurance.
“This is what really scares me - if there is a problem they can just close the company and walk away.”
The potential for well head pollution is high on his list of concerns. “I am told there are six million gallons of water used in drilling and one million of the mixture comes back up.
“When it comes back up clearly there is a potential of it polluting the atmosphere because it is taken off and put in open lagoons.”
In addition he said the toxic mixture coming back up the well could seep into underground aquifers if there was a fracture in the wall.
“It is very important we are told what the chemical mixture is. If we want to monitor our ground water, we need to know what we are monitoring for.
“There are so many unanswered questions.”
The proposal is also being fought on access grounds with heavy lorries using the narrow rural lane: “And the noise and the general nuisance from the site is going to be very considerable.”
Lord Cowdray said Fernhurst was fortunate to have the support of MP Andrew Tyrie who opposed fracking in national parks, but as yet the South Downs National Park Authority had not given a feel of where it stood.
The application is expected next month and Lord Cowdray said it was important to continue research, fund raising and to join forces with Kirdford and Wisborough Green communities facing a similar battle.