An energy company is looking to carry out more drilling across West Sussex if it finds shale gas underground.

Celtique Energie admitted it would explore more well locations should its exploratory borehole in Fernhurst prove “positive”.

A spokesman for the firm said: “The data and results acquired from the initial wells planned by Celtique in the Weald will determine what if any commercial potential is present in the conventional and unconventional geology.

“Should the initial data from this exploration well prove positive, we may wish to appraise these formations further using hydraulic fracturing at this well site or alternative well locations in the region.”

He said the company would then look to make applications to the National Park Authority and additional permits would be requested from the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Environment Agency.

The company is currently exploring Fernhurst and Wisborough Green in Mid-Sussex for gas levels.

It comes as nearby landowners launched a legal bid using trespass law to stop the drilling amid claims there could be “hundreds” of drill sites across the South Downs National Park if no action is taken.

Celtique has been using a horizontal well to try and find shale gas underneath Fernhurst.

Nearby landowners, including the owner of the prestigious 16,500 acre Cowdray Park Polo Club and estate Lord Cowdray, are hoping to stop the firm from drilling further.

The campaigners say if the company did find gas they would not be able to run a full-scale fracking well as they would not have permission from the surrounding landowners to drill outwards horizontally to access the shale.

Marcus Adams, one of the landowners involved in the blockade, said: "We believe this is a test case.

“Should permission be granted here we could potentially see hundreds of wells over the national park.”

But Celtique claim any further drilling at Fernhurst would not be within the area of the proposed “legal blockade”.

A spokesman said: “The horizontal well would be located exclusively within the ownership of the land owners with whom Celtique has entered into a leasing agreement for its proposed exploration well.

"Furthermore the horizontal well is only an option at this stage and would be drilled on the basis of positive data from the vertical well."

He added the firm was not looking to apply for hydraulic fracturing – fracking - in its current planning application.