The controversial process of hydraulic fracturing – or ‘fracking’ – could be coming to several sites around Heathfield and Crowborough.
Information unearthed by a Lewes councillor has revealed five exploration sites in Heathfield and seven in and around Crowborough from a list of 31 licences for oil and gas exploration in East Sussex.
The information was discovered by Rosalyn St Pierre, the county councillor representing Ringmer and Lewes Bridge.
It followed a visit she made with another Lewes councillor, Amanda Dean, to the high-profile protest in Balcombe against oil and gas exploration by the Cuadrilla company.
“I’m furious that no-one has bothered to tell us about this,” Cllr St Pierre told the Express.
“I realise these are only exploration licences at this stage, but that could mean we’re two steps away from actual fracking.
“Given the potential implications, it’s pretty disgraceful we have had to discover this by ferreting around a government department’s website.”
Cllr St Pierre dug out the latest list of exploration licences granted by the Department for Energy and Climate Change, dated August 9.
It shows the original applicant companies but gives no other details except for a grid reference for each licensed site.
Cllr St Pierre was active on the fracking issue in 2011, when she persuaded councillors that any applications that come to East Sussex County Council have to be decided by the full council and cannot be delegated to officers.
A stratum of Kimmeridge Clay underpins the Weald - and most of the south of England from Arundel to Dover and out to sea.
Cllr Sylvia Tidy, county cabinet member and member for Crowborough said: “County has made it clear there are no licence applications in the pipeline at present.
“What are we going to do in this country if we cannot find ways to get cheaper electricity for people, particularly those on low incomes?
“Bills are soon going to soar. The situation needs to be monitored very closely.
“But we should not go merrily ‘fracking’ here until we are clear what the implications might be, both for the environment and local community.
“Existing explorations should be examined, and the outcomes studied before any decisions are made.
“I have been to Texas where the landscape is dotted with oil wells and I am aware there might be potential sites on the Ashdown Forest and indeed one on Crowborough Golf Course, but existing planning legislation can protect both.”