A community is celebrating after plans to drill for oil in a National Park were unanimously rejected.

The proposal - put forward by energy firm Celtique - would have seen exploratory drilling take place within the boundaries of the South Downs National Park.

In order for this to happen, there had to be exceptional circumstances and for the operation to be in the public interest, according to Government legislation.

The ten committee panelists were in agreement this was not the case and all voted to refuse the proposal.

The vote was in line with a detailed report carried out by officers, which recommended the proposal was thrown out.

But the energy firm does have the right to appeal.

And, if submitted by Celtique, the decision would be made by Secretary of State Eric Pickles whose Conservative party are in favour of the controversial drilling.

Geoff Davies, CEO of Celtique Energie, said the company was "disappointed" but not surprised at the decision given the SDNPA's public stance on oil and gas exploration in national parks.

He said: "National planning guidance clearly state that planning for the supply of minerals has a number of special characteristics that are not present in other developments.

"We believe SDNPA officers appear to have made their recommendation and the committee appears to have made its decision based on a subjective and unjustified interpretation of planning guidance.

"The decision fails to take into consideration the importance of this project to the nation and the comprehensive steps Celtique would be taking to ensure that all exploration work would be done sensitively during the very temporary period we would be working in the National Park."

He said their studies found that the site was the "best available location" to go about exploratory drilling to find out the amount of untapped oil and gas resources.

He went on: "It seems wrong in these highly uncertain geopolitical times that the national and public interest can be given such low priority. If we are not even allowed to explore it will not be possible to prove how significant this resource could be for the country.

"Government, including the Prime Minister and several energy ministers, has repeatedly stated that 'we are all in this together' when it comes to oil and gas exploration in the UK.

"However, given today's decision and the recent planning refusal by West SussexCounty Council at Wisborough Green, we appear to be arriving at a scenario whereby, in the face of Government policy, operators are being deliberately prevented from exploring in the south-east of England.

"Our application was totally compliant, comprehensive and of high-quality. We believe it has been refused on subjective and unjustified grounds.

"We believe this proposal would be supported by the planning inspectorate or the Secretary of State in the event of an appeal. We are considering our further options and will make a decision in due course."

A bid by Celtique to explore for oil and gas near Wisborough Green, a conservation area also in West Sussex, just outside the South Downs National Park, was turned down by the county council's planning committee in July.