A Greenpeace volunteer writes on the plaque of West Sussex County Council County Hall in Chichester [Credit: Greenpeace]

Landowners launch 'legal block' against fracking

Landowners have announced a new "legal blockade" to prevent shale gas and oil exploration under their property in West Sussex.

The nine residents and landowners, who include Sussex Wildlife Trust, have joined forces to stop energy company Celtique from exploring for fossil fuels by denying the firm permission to drill out horizontally under their land from an exploratory vertical well.

Currently shale companies need permission from landowners before drilling under their properties, or get special permission from the courts, but ministers have announced plans to change the law so fracking can go ahead without landowners' approval.

Solicitors acting on behalf of the group have sent an official letter to the company and the Department of Energy and Climate Change stating the landowners' refusal to allow fracking under their land – which covers almost the entire perimeter of the site near Wisborough Green.

The move by residents comes ahead of a meeting by West Sussex County Council planning committee to decide whether to grant Celtique permission to carry out exploratory drilling at the site.

Speaking on behalf of campaign group Keep Kirdford and Wisborough Green, local resident Nathan Stride said their main concern was that the process of extracting of shale gas and oil was not as safe as the industry and the Government claimed.

"This is a true David and Goliath battle. On one side you have a fracking industry that can rely on huge amounts of money and powerful friends in government,” he said.

“On the other there's a small group of local residents whose only strength are the legal safeguards enshrined in law. We are now looking to our councillors on Tuesday to stand by the decision of their planning experts.”

Campaigners said council planning officials have recommended the committee should turn down the application, amid concerns over road and heavy lorry traffic issues.

Both the Wisborough Green campaign and a similar initiative in nearby Fernhurst are part of a mass legal block against fracking launched by Greenpeace in October last year and backed by more than 48,000 people.

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