A High Court hearing will begin tomorrow over the exploration of shale gas in the village of Balcombe.

Lawyers from Leigh Day, acting on behalf of the Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association (FFBRA), claim the decision taken by West Sussex County Council to grant planning permission to Cuadrilla to drill at Lower Stumble in Balcombe was unlawful.

Cuadrilla, which previously had permission to explore for oil and gas at the site, has now been granted permission from West Sussex County Council in May 2014 to return.

Permission was granted despite the application receiving 889 objections and nine in support.

Campaigners argue when deciding to grant permission councillors were misdirected over Cuadrilla’s past conduct at Balcombe and the relevance of the scale of opposition.

Ugo Hayter, from law firm Leigh Day, said: “Our clients are greatly concerned that this operation risks polluting the aquifer and nearby reservoir and flies in the face of overwhelming community opposition.

“Much more needs to be known about the potential harm drilling for unconventional oil and gas poses to the environment and the public before such swift action is taken by those who seek to gain financially from this potentially devastating rush for energy.”