The fracks in local democracy.
Despite a petition of nearly five and a half thousand signatures, despite over 850 objections - West Sussex County Council chose to ignore the material objection that Cuadrilla has no social licence to be in Balcombe. Well informed and well researched speeches were delivered by residents, which only served to highlight the obvious lack of reading and thought that the voting councillors (with the exception of one – thank you Sue Mullins) had put into this planning meeting. It is a sad day for democracy when the committee, like every other body involved in this process from the EA to the DECC, dismisses some of the most serious concerns as ‘not in their remit’. Then whose responsibility are these concerns? It shows a ridiculous lack of foresight, when an exploration company is allowed to have its process considered piecemeal in separate planning applications, without considering the end-game of oil production close to residents. Thus, each new application is in part validated by the fact that the previous one was approved. Very clever Lord Browne!
Back to our WSCC committee of elected representatives – evidence of health risks from flaring? Not their concern. Cuadrilla’s own researchers admit fluid can migrate up to 5000ft along fault plains and intend to put fluid down an uncased lateral borehole in a highly faulted area, within 1600ft of the aquifer- apparently nobody’s concern. Cuadrilla failed to include certain gases in their models of flaring emissions; have lost air samples and failed to consider the contour of the land so that the flare will actually just pump chemicals straight into our village (Lower Stumble is lower than Balcombe remember) -apparently nobody’s concern. Then of course there are the regulatory bodies that are supposed to protect us, but instead make assumptions that Cuadrilla has effectively self-regulated, which we know from past history that they have not. The HSE for example, have admitted they made no onsite checks of the well, yet this is part of their own best practice to ensure well failure does not occur. The WSCC and EA have then based their own permits on the idea that the well is, in fact, sound. This cannot be guaranteed, and as we have seen in Singleton, well failure does happen. Again - apparently nobody’s concern. Climate change? Clearly nobody’s concern, and certainly not the government’s, who admit climate change is occurring in one breath whilst redirecting subsidies away from renewables and into onshore oil and gas with the other. At what cost do we want our energy? We can only hope now, that an educated public will use their votes wisely.
Helen Savage, Balcombe