Balcombe residents lose judicial review of Cuadrilla planning permission

A group of Balcombe residents has lost its High Court battle to overturn the planning permission granted to Cuadrilla to test an exploratory oil well in their village.

At a judicial review hearing four weeks ago, the Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association argued that the permission was unlawful and should be quashed. They said officers at West Sussex County Council’s had misdirected the planning committee about the issues it must consider when making the decision.

Mr Justice Gilbert rejected the residents’ case and said the planning permission was valid.  He awarded costs of £10,000 against Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association.

The case centred on officers’ instructions to the committee that it should assume the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive should do their jobs satisfactorily. FFBRA argued that this was wrong in law. The officers should also not have told the committee it could not take into account key issues including:

  • Concerns about air and water pollution
  • The number of objections to the application
  • Cuadrilla’s breaches of earlier planning conditions
  • Costs to the council arising from crime and disorder if the application were approved.

West Sussex County Council argued that it had followed government planning guidance. It said it should not duplicate the work of other organisations or substitute its judgement for theirs.