FFBRA’s Legal Action

Published by FFBRA on

In order to potentially overturn the Planning Inspector’s Decision to allow Angus Energy permission to carry out an extended flow test for oil at Balcombe we are going to the High Court on the 19th and 20th July 2023.

We are seeking to have the Decision reviewed on six grounds, any one of which renders the Decision unlawful. We are being represented by law firm Leigh Day, as well as barristers David Wolfe KC and Merrow Golden.

To cover the cost of the statutory review we have launched a crowdfunding page “Stop Oil Exploration in Balcombe, Sussex” on CrowdJustice: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/stop-balcombe-oil/ and are delighted to say we have now raised the £37,000 to fund the case as we have received donations both through CrowdJustice and directly to our bank account.

The six grounds our legal counsel have asked for a review on are as follows:

  1. The Inspector acted irrationally by only taking into account the benefits, but not the harms, of the future extraction of hydrocarbons.
  2. The Inspector unlawfully interpreted and/or applied policy M7 of the West Sussex Joint Local Minerals Plan 2018.
  3. The Inspector unlawfully failed to consider alternatives to development in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, as required under the exceptional circumstances test in national and local policy.
  4. The decision was based on an unlawful failure to comply with the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017 due to two errors in the negative screening opinion, namely there was:
    a. no consideration of whether the Development formed an integral part of a wider project.
    b. no consideration of the environmental effects of emissions.
  5. The Inspector unlawfully failed to consider the Development’s impacts on climate change.
  6. The Inspector unlawfully failed to assess (or take into account an assessment of) the Development’s impact on water resources.

A judge has decided that our case is “arguable” and so should be heard in the High Court on 19th and 20th July 2023.

This is a concrete way to make a difference by not only supporting our village but also protecting the environment and setting a precedent which may well become important for the protection of AONBs and climate change litigation across the UK.

We couldn’t have done this without your help and are so grateful for your support.

We have been encouraged by the many messages of support we have received from across the country. We are deeply grateful that we are not alone in our decade long fight.

Caroline Lucas, who visited Balcombe during the protests in 2013 (and was famously arrested then released) and has been a Friend of FFBRA ever since sent these words of support: to us:

“This outrageous decision flies in the face of local people, the local county council and the most basic climate common sense. How this major oil drilling development can be considered to be “in the public interest” when it risks destroying precious natural habitats, creating air, water, noise and light pollution and contravening our crucial climate targets, is beyond comprehension.”

John Ashton, The UK’s climate ambassador from 2006-2012 (Foreign Secretary’s special representative for climate change) :

It beggars belief, as the true scale of the climate emergency becomes ever clearer, that our government is now willing to unleash a drilling free for all in – of all places – the precious and fragile countryside of the Sussex Weald.
The Angus energy project, and the further drilling across southern England to which it would open the door, can have no conceivable benefit to anyone except the speculative investors who are behind it. It would not enhance the UK’s energy security. It would contribute nothing to our economy. On the contrary, by casting doubt on the seriousness of our national commitment to net zero, it would undermine the transition to a clean energy system on which our energy security and future competitiveness will depend.
Little more than a year ago, at the Glasgow COP, the UK was urging governments around the world to speed up the phaseout of all fossil fuels. The Sunak government continues to pose as a climate leader. But the first rule of all effective diplomacy is “walk your talk”. Decisions like this (and the equally astonishing approval for the Woodhouse coal mine in Cumbria) cut our climate diplomats off at the knees and make us look to those we seek to influence around the world not like leaders but hypocrites.
It is the people of Balcombe, and many other front line communities up and down our country, who are the true climate leaders. Ten years ago they sent Cuadrilla packing at the same site. We must all be grateful for their commitment and support them now in their campaign to send Angus Energy the same way

Our crowdfunding page “Stop Oil Exploration in Balcombe, Sussex” is live on CrowdJustice https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/stop-balcombe-oil/ please pledge whatever you can.

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