Villagers fracking fears as oil company set to dig test well

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Oil and gas exploration company Cuadrilla Resources has announced it is to test for underground oil reserves.

The exploratory well will be situated at the Lower Stumble site, one mile from the centre of Balcombe, West Sussex.

The site has been the target of an opposition campaign by groups against the use of a technique called hydraulic fracturing - commonly known as fracking.

The controversial process uses large quantities of water, sand and chemicals to fracture rock to release gas or oil.

Cuadrilla has given an “unequivocal assurance” to Balcombe Parish Council (BPC) that it will not be using fracking at this stage.

The latest development was revealed after members of BPC met with the chief executive of Cuadrilla Resources Ltd, Francis Egan, and Matt Lambert, its Government and Public Affairs director on May 3.

The meeting, at Cuadrilla’s request, was held at Mid Sussex District Council offices in Haywards Heath

A report by Balcombe Parish Council, which was made public on May 8 said the council had asked for, and was given, an unequivocal assurance that current plans do not involve any Fracking on the site.

The report stated: “Cuadrilla advised that the necessary applications had been submitted to the Environment Agency and the Health & Safety Executive, and that on the day of the meeting an application for drilling consent was being submitted to the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC). These applications do not include a proposal to Frack the well.”

BPC said it made it “categorically” clear to Cuadrilla that it was committed to opposing the use of fracking after a poll of residents showed them to be overwhelmingly against the process.

Fears centre around the potential pollution of the water tables above fracking bores; use of potentially harmful chemicals during drilling; the release of naturally occurring underground compounds including carcinogens such as mercury and arsenic; noise, traffic and air pollution as well as earthquakes from strata disturbance.

Cuadrilla plans to host a drop-in session to address the scare stories about fracking possibly as soon as May 23 and to write to every household in the village.

Fears emanate mainly from the USA where fracking for shale gas has released reserves which have changed the US economy, with gas prices falling by 25 per cent, but where mining practice is less controlled.

Cuadrilla has an Exploration Licence for the Lower Stumble site and was granted planning permission for an exploration well in 2010.