A gas company has announced it is applying for more exploratory drilling for shale gas and oil near Wisborough Green and Kirdford, West Sussex.
Celtique Energie already has permission to drill in Broadford Bridge near Billingshurst, although no work has yet started there and it has ruled out fracking at that site.
Now, it has submitted a planning application to West Sussex County Council for a second well site - and says it may want to use fracking there in the future.
In a statement released this morning, it said: "Celtique Energie’s proposals will see a temporary well site constructed on a well screened area of land near the villages of Kirdford and Wisborough Green, West Sussex, to test for the presence of commercial oil or gas in the Kimmeridge Limestone and Great Oolite formations and take log and core data in the Kimmeridge and Liassic shales."
This application does not cover hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, itself, just exploration of the site for oil or gas. However, if it finds anything, it may then apply for a fresh licence for fracking at a new well on the same site. This would also require permits from the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Environment Agency and further public consultation.
Neighbours of the well site have already been informed, with 154 attending a two-day public consultation at Kirdford Village Hall in May.
Geoff Davies, Chief Executive Officer at Celtique Energie said it had responded to local concerns over heavy goods vehicles by including traffic calming measures in its final application.
He added: “We are aware that there is significant interest locally over the role of hydraulic fracturing at our proposed well site. As we have consistently stated, Celtique is not applying for hydraulic fracturing as part of this planning application.
"However, as part of our planning application we will be drilling through shale formations encountered in the well to confirm what potential these rocks have for commercial production. Should this data prove positive, we may wish to explore these formations further, which could include the use of hydraulic fracturing at a new well on this same site.
"However this would involve a separate planning application to drill a new well, additional permits from the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Environment Agency, and most importantly further consultation with the community.
“Now that the application has been submitted, we invite all members of the community who wish to make their views on our proposals known to get in touch with West Sussex County Council. We will also continue to engage with and update local residents on the progress of the proposals in the coming months.”
In the event that there is an absence of viable reserves, the well would be plugged, all equipment removed and the site would be restored.
Celtique Energie’s application for its temporary well site will be available to view on West Sussex County Council’s website once it has been validated by planning officers.
The gas company also has an information page here.