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Balcombe residents granted permission to challenge fracking company

Cuadrilla’s planning permission to be challenged, in latest stage of a legal battle against unconventional oil and gas fracking in Balcombe.

1 August 2014

The High Court has today confirmed the grant of permission for the Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association (FFBRA) to challenge the decision by West Sussex County Council to grant planning permission to Cuadrilla, to undertake works at Lower Stumble in Balcombe.

It is the latest stage of a legal battle against unconventional oil and gas in the village of Balcombe in West Sussex, by Cuadrilla Balcombe Limited.

The judicial review will now take place in the High Court over two days later this year.

Cuadrilla who previously had permission to frack for oil and gas at the site were granted permission from West Sussex County Council in May 2014 to return.

According to the new application, permission was sought for exploration and appraisal of the recently drilled "hydrocarbon lateral borehole" together with a new 14 metre high flare on the site.

Despite massive objection to the development (the application received 889 objections and 9 in support) permission was granted permitting work to now resume at the site.

Lawyers, Leigh Day, who are representing FFBRA, initiated the judicial review process citing a number of objections to the decision to grant planning permission and detailed repeated unsatisfactory communications with Cuadrilla Balcombe Limited.

In response to one letter from the law firm, asking for information about the likely timetable for the development, Cuadrilla replied: "At this stage we do not consider it appropriate for our confidential business plans and work schedules to be disclosed to you or your clients."

A pre-action letter was sent on 16 May 2014 to the Council and copied to Cuadrilla setting out the ways in which FFBRA considered the planning permission to be unlawful.

These include objections to Cuadrilla's conduct during the operation of its previous activities in Balcombe including allegations of non-compliance with conditions in the past.

The grounds of claim also consider the relevance of the scale of local opposition and alleges that the Council's' insistence that the number of representations in opposition was 'not a material consideration' as being 'simply wrong in law'.

Ugo Hayter from the human rights team at law firm Leigh Day, which is representing FFBRA, said:

"We're very pleased that the High Court has agreed for this to go to a full judicial review hearing as we believe this planning permission has been granted unlawfully and flies in the face of overwhelming community opposition.

Sue Taylor, Balcombe resident and campaigner, said:  "This planning consent sets a dangerous precedent that the concerns of the local community can be ignored even though it is their health and safety that is at risk.

"Flaring from oil wells close to residential area poses an unacceptable threat to human health."

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