Sites across Sussex which are earmarked for possible mineral extraction have been revealed. But what do people think of the plans and how it will affect them? FLORA THOMPSON reports.
The world saw how Balcombe reacted to controversial news shale gas exploration could take place in its community.
Protests broke out last year in the village in response to the news.
Supporters said the process was vital for the economy and dismissed fears it could affect the environment.
While objectors claimed it could ruin the area in which they live and fought the action at all costs.
Now West Sussex County Council is preparing a plan with South Downs National Park Authority to explore how other minerals could be extracted from 27 possible sites. Resources they claim are available to be used include clay, sandstone, soft sand, sharp sand and gravel, and chalk.
But this plan will not allocate sites for extracting oil and gas, the council has confirmed.
A spokeswoman said: “As required by national policy, the Joint West Sussex Minerals Local Plan must include policies against which oil and gas developments can be assessed.
“However, it is not necessary to, and the plan will not, allocate sites for oil and/or gas extraction.”
The plan sets out proposals for minerals development which will be assessed to make sure communities and the environment are protected by using the most appropriate locations, she said.
Generally work like this can involve mining or drilling into the soil to extract minerals but so far the council is unable to confirm what methods would be used.
The spokeswoman said: “Every mineral site is unique and therefore has different positive and negative impacts on the surrounding area. The final plan will include policies which seek to minimise and mitigate negative impacts that may occur on the environment, economy and local communities.”
At this stage it cannot be confirmed how many sites will be used and said the list is purely a suggestion of possible locations. People are being asked to submit their views on the report by Monday, September 22.
Responses will be compiled as part of a draft plan due to be published next year with a short list of sites, and it will be finalised in 2016. If the plan is approved it would be adopted in 2017 until 2031, but planning permission would need to be granted before work took place on any site.
The council believes ensuring there is an adequate supply of minerals is vital to the success of the economy.
The report says Shoreham Cement Works, owned by Adur District Council and the Bridger Trust, is currently used for agriculture but has chalk resources which could be used to manufacture cement. If the site is used it could be operated by Dudman Group Ltd.
And the Chantry Lane Extension in the Horsham, Surrington and Sullington district, could yield up to one million tonnes of soft sand.
Meanwhile it is thought the West Stoke Road East site – a former mineral works owned by a Mr Mortimer in the Chichester District – could yield 800,000 tonnes of sharp sand and gravel.
Balcombe resident Rodney Jago, a supporter of the concept of fracking, thinks as long as the site is suitable, the plan is a good idea.
He said: “I felt the site near our village was suitable because it was outside the village. Finding these resources is a big boost for the local and national economy and it’s important we keep looking into such options.
“I don’t know much about this current proposal but I believe that if the site is suitable then there would be no reason to object to the plans.”
But film producer Juliette Harris, a member of the Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association (FFBRA), said the plan should be treated with caution.
She said: “We spent hours researching and talking to experts on how the work at Balcombe could affect us and the area. It was only then that we could make an informed decision and decide to object to the plans.
“Although the council are saying this plan does not include the extraction of oil and gas, I would still advise residents in any community who feel they could be affected to exercise caution.
“Read all the documents, seek advice, do the leg work and work out exactly what could and could not happen at the site near you, that’s the only way you’ll be able to form an opinion on this plan.”
- Paper copies of the council’s study are available at all county, district and borough council offices, and at the South Downs National Park Authority headquarters in Midhurst. Visit www.westsussex.gov.uk/mwdf to fill out a response form, email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Planning and Transport Policy Team on 01243 642118.
Implications on natural world
Some of the sites earmarked stretch across the South Downs National Park.
Keith Reed, deputy director of planning for the park’s authority, said he is working closely with the council on the plan.
He said: “National parks have the highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty and we are working closely in partnership with West Sussex County Council to identify land for minerals while safeguarding the special landscapes, wildlife and communities of this part of the South Downs. The mineral local plan is critical to achieving this goal.”
While Pieter Montyn, the county council’s cabinet member for highways and transport who has responsibility for planning for minerals extraction, said: "We would like the public and industry to look at the information we have put together for each site and let us know if it is accurate. We are committed to involving the public in the plan-making process and listening to their views so that the final plan reflects the comments, observations and views of all relevant and interested parties.”