Oil and gas (‘hydrocarbons’) make an essential contribution to the country’s prosperity and quality of life, and play an important part in our energy mix during the transition to low carbon energy supplies, such as wind and solar energy.
In West Sussex, exploration and drilling for oil, and to a far lesser extent gas, has been ongoing since the 1970s and continues today.
2 West Sussex County Council’s role
We are the mineral planning authority (MPA) for the area of West Sussex outside the South Downs National Park. The South Downs National Park Authority is the MPA for the National Park.
As the MPA, we are responsible for determining planning applications for oil and gas development or ‘onshore hydrocarbon extraction’. We make decisions within the Town and Country Planning system, which governs the development of land in the public interest.
Our key role is in making decisions on planning applications for oil and gas development. An operator has to get planning permission before they are allowed to drill (explore) for oil or gas at a site, so will submit a planning application for consideration.
If they find a viable oil or gas resource, they will need further planning permission to enable them to produce oil or gas from the site (unless the original permission also allowed production).
Answers to common questions can be found in the document below.
3 Other regulators' roles
While we determine planning applications for oil and gas development, other regulators also have important roles.
Oil and Gas Authority (OGA)
Issues Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDLs), giving operators the right to search for, bore and essentially own petroleum by demonstrating financial and technical competence. An initial PEDL term allows five years of exploration to an identified work programme. A second term of five years allows appraisal and development, and a third term of productions lasts for 20 years.
Environment Agency (EA)
Issues environmental permits for various elements of the oil and gas exploration and production process, including storing and handling of oil, flaring gas and managing water and waste from the borehole. The EA is also a statutory consultee in the planning process in relation to protection and potential impact upon water resources.
Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
Checks and monitors that the design and construction of the well/borehole is appropriate.
Fracking is undertaken to create and expand fractures in the shale rock layers, below conventional limestone and sandstone layers, to increase gas production.
A report from the British Geological Survey (BGS) indicates that there is unlikely to be shale gas potential in West Sussex and also notes that only limited amounts of shale in the area have the potential to produce oil in commercial quantities.
There are no sites currently being fracked in West Sussex and planning permission has not been issued for operators to do so.
5 Applications and sites in West Sussex
The following timeline of events relates to oil and gas applications and sites in West Sussex.
- July 2018 – Planning applications currently being considered, seeking to retain the Broadford Bridge/Woodbarn Farm oil exploration site (WSCC/032/18/WC) and fence (WSCC/033/18/WC) for a further 18 months to 31 March 2020, after which the site would be restored.
- January 2018 - Planning permission has been approved at the Balcombe (Lower Stumble Wood) exploration site for flow testing operations. Application and decision documents can be found online (WSCC/040/17/BA).
- November 2017 - Planning permission has been approved to allow an extension of time for production at the Storrington oil site to 2032 (WSCC/035/17/SR).
- 13 September 2017 - Kimmeridge Oil & Gas Limited's (KOGL) planning application has been approved to extend the time period of the Broadford Bridge (Woodbarn Farm) site for a further 12 months for the completion of the testing phase and restoration/retention phases for the site. Application documents can be found online (WSCC/029/17/WC).
- 6 June 2017 – Kimmeridge Oil & Gas Limited (KOGL) have acquired the site at Broadford Bridge, Adversane Lane, Broadford Bridge, Billingshurst, RH14 9EB for oil and gas exploration. We have put together a response to commonly asked queries at the site.
- 11 March 2015 - Celtique Energie Weald Ltd’s appeal against West Sussex County Council’s refusal of planning permission for exploration at Boxal Bridge, Northup Field, Wisborough Green, has been withdrawn. Application and appeal documents remain online (WSCC/083/13/KD).
- 5 December 2014 - the High Court has dismissed Frack Free Balcombe Residents’ Association’s (FFBRA’s) claim for a judicial review to quash the County Council’s grant of planning permission for oil and gas exploration and appraisal south of Balcombe (WSCC/005/14/BA).
The claim challenged the approval on 6 grounds but was dismissed by the judge who concluded that the decision was sound. Therefore the permission still stands and must be implemented by 2 May 2017.
- 8 November 2014 - We hosted another oil and gas exhibition with regulatory bodies and interest groups providing information to residents. View the presentations from regulators and an academic specialising in the field:
- Friday 17 October 2014 - Full Council debated a petition “calling on West Sussex County Council to declare West Sussex a ‘Frack-Free’ Zone”. The petition was unsuccessful.
- 11 September 2014 – Planning permission was refused for exploration at Nine Acre, Vann Road near Fernhurst (SDNP/13/06896/CM).
- 21 June 2014 – We hosted an oil and gas exhibition in Pulborough. Regulatory bodies and interest groups provided information to residents, which included presentations on oil and gas development, regulation and how they are working with the planning process.
6 Permitted sites and current applications
We have granted planning permission for a number of exploratory drilling operations and oil production sites, subject to conditions, which are set out below.
There are also a number of oil/gas sites within the South Downs National Park. Details of applications on these sites are available on the National Park Authority’s website.
- Site: Balcombe - Lower Stumble Wood, London Road, RH17 6JH
Application: Temporary planning permission for flow testing, to be started within 3 years from 10 January 2018.
Planning application: WSCC/040/17/BA
- Site: Storrington - Pulborough Road, Cootham, RH20 4HP
Application: Planning permission for oil production until 31 December 2032.
Planning application: WSCC/035/17/SR
- Site: Balcombe - Lower Stumble Wood, London Road, Balcombe, RH17 6JH
Application: Temporary planning permission for 6 months' exploration/appraisal by flow testing, to be started within 3 years from 2 May 2014.
Planning application: WSCC/005/14/BA
- Site: Broadford Bridge - Wood Barn Farm, Adversane Lane, Broadford Bridge, Billingshurst, RH14 9EB
Application: Planning permission for oil and gas exploration to 15 September 2018.
Planning application: WSCC/029/17/WC
- Site: Lidsey - Lidsey Road, Aldingbourne, PO22 9PL
Application: Planning permission for oil production until 20 February 2018.
Planning application: BN/31/05
- Site: Storrington - Pulborough Road, Cootham, Storrington, West Sussex, RH20 4HP
Application: Planning permission for oil production until 31 December 2017.
Planning application: WSCC/050/13/SR