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Open Letter to the Leader of West Sussex County Council

Thursday 20th February, in a grey chill rain. Another public service announcement. This is a copy of a letter sent to the leader of West Sussex County Council, registering my objection to unconventional shale oil and gas extraction in Sussex. Not that I don't I object to unconventional shale oil and gas extraction anywhere in the UK, but this is my own back yard, where I feel I have a right to join the local residents and their protectors in protest.

This is a stand up and be counted letter. I can't tell Ms Goldsmith anything she doesn't know, I have nothing really intelligent or expert to say, and I can't hope to persuade Ms Goldsmith or WSCC to take any specific steps. All I can do is demonstrate that I'm another interested citizen who strongly objects to this "fracked shale bonanza" development, and who is trying to keep herself informed. NB, the every one of those licences comes with a requirement that the licensee drills at least six wells, just in the first phase of the licence. Check out your own county!

For the latest news from the real people check here:

Keep Kirdford And Wisborough Green

Ms Louise Goldsmith
County Hall,
West Street,
PO19 1RH

Dear Ms Goldsmith,

I write to register my objection to proposed or covert unconventional oil and gas extraction in Sussex, and specifically to Celtique Energie Weald Ltd’s proposal for vertical and horizontal drilling on arable land south of Boxall Bridge, Wisborough Green (WSCC/083/13/KD); to Celtique Energie’s proposal for vertical and horizontal drilling within the South Downs National Park at Nine Acres Copse, Linchmere (SDNP/13/05896/CM); and to Cuadrilla’s alleged plans for oil extraction at its current drill site at Lower Stumble, Balcombe. The grounds for objection to the proposals at Wisborough Green, at Nine Acres Copse, and at Lower Stumble have been comprehensively itemised and presented by many expert voices, as I am sure you are aware, but I ought to summarise a few of them again:

• Planned destruction of the quality of life of local residents in quiet rural communities
• Planned, lasting damage to fragile built and natural environments
• Planned destruction of landscape character, ecosystems, wildlife; and habitat of protected species
• Planned severe noise and light pollution, invasion of heavy traffic; loss of rare “dark skies”
• Planned destruction or lasting damage to internationally and regionally important natural assets.

In addition, there are the known and unknown risks of unplanned disaster:

• The risks of handling large volumes of dangerously polluted “produced water”
• The risks of escapes of toxic chemicals, endangering livestock, wildlife, and human health
• Toxic ground water pollution associated with the increasing risk of flooding in the Low Weald

We are told that a fracking bonanza is in the national interest, as a “bridge” to a low carbon future: but a shale gas bonanza has to be extremely costly in terms of pollution, and cannot mitigate the threat of global climate change. The gas boom in the US has done no such thing. A shale gas bonanza can’t address the UK’s cost of living crisis, or the social challenges of a divided society. Licensing fees may provide the current government with a short-term injection of cash, but if a boom materialises —by no means certain, even if the gas is there, given the high production costs, and the equally high clean-up costs of this form of extraction— shale gas isn’t a solution to the energy crisis of the future. Exploration companies, their shareholders and their lobbyists will benefit financially. National interests, like the local residents, will only pay the price.

The scale of destruction is evident in the several hundreds of PEDL licences so far granted (34 in Sussex alone; list attached; source, Shale gas and fracking - Commons Library Standard Note; Jan 2014; Appendix 1). At least 2,800 wells are in prospect in the next few years. Inevitably, in the densely populated UK, these will mainly be drilled in rural but populated areas of agricultural land and natural beauty. Cuadrilla alone has rights covering 270 square miles of Sussex, and, despite promises and “vows” made to local residents, both Cuadrilla and Celtique Energie have assured their shareholders that there is exciting fracking potential at their exploration sites. This publicly available information makes nonsense (except for the purpose of extracting fees from licensees) of the DECC insistence that the artificial PEDL phases of “exploration”, “development” and “exploitation” must be appraised separately, and the word “fracking” must not be mentioned in an objection to a planning application for “exploration”. On the contrary, as DECC has now admitted, “there is no firm distinction between exploration for shale gas and exploration for other targets. Some companies who are drilling mainly for conventional oil and gas have decided to drill deeper than they otherwise might have, in order to see whether there is prospective shale in their licensed areas” (Shale gas and fracking - Commons Library Standard Note; as above).

After the frightening, unprecedented storms and floods of this winter, climate change is no longer a threat, or a debatable issue. The consequences of global warming are already upon us, here in the UK. This is a reality that we have to learn to live with. In November last year West Sussex completed a £28m plan to surrender land to the sea. Other coastal regions are being forced to do the same: we have no choice. WSCC will soon have to get tough with developers, obliging them to build on brownfield sites; away from flood plains and within existing urban/rural infrastructures. These are difficult times. We cannot afford a lawless land grab for more fossil fuel, it just doesn’t make sense. It’s time to wake up, to face the real challenges of the future; and get serious about addressing the problem of energy needs in sustainable ways such as:

• Carbon capture and storage
• Energy-saving, and development of novel energy-efficient technologies
• Investment, research and development in current renewables, (a better design for onshore wind turbines wouldn’t be a bad start)

Determination of the Celtique Energie application at Wisborough Green has been put back to 30th April 2014. Their application at Nine Acres Copse, Linchmere, in the South Downs National Park, is currently “on hold” until the summer. I am not reassured by these delays. I suspect, and I believe I’m not alone, that the intention is to draw out the application process until new legislation, removing the rights of local residents, can be hurried through Parliament (e.g. removing the right of landowners to be informed, and to object, to drilling operations that pass under their property). If WSCC approves these and similar applications, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I believe the political repercussions, never mind more significant consequences, will be serious and long-lasting. I appreciate that your powers may be limited, but please make a stand.


Gwyneth Jones

List of PEDL licences apparently granted in Sussex constituencies, in award rounds to date

Arundel and South DownsIGAS0PL240
Arundel and South DownsKEY0PL241
Arundel and South DownsIGAS0PL205
Arundel and South DownsCELTIQUE13PEDL243
Arundel and South DownsCUADRILLA13PEDL244
Arundel and South DownsCELTIQUE13PEDL232
Arundel and South DownsIGAS13PEDL233
Arundel and South Downs CELTIQUE13PEDL234
Bexhill and BattleCUADRILLA13PEDL247
Bognor Regis and LittlehamptonKEY0PL241
Bognor Regis and LittlehamptonCELTIQUE13PEDL232
Chichester NORTHERN12PEDL155
Wealden MIDMAR13PEDL248


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