FRACKING firm Cuadrilla wants to do more oil well testing.

The firm has said it has submitted a new planning application to the Environment Agency to conduct flow tests at its exploration site in Balcombe, near Haywards Heath.

The testing will not involve controversial hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, because the underground rocks at the Lower Stumble site are already fractured.

Fracking involves high powered drilling to reach oil and gas trapped in a layer of rock.

The firm was granted permission to drill the exploration well in 2013, but said it has been unable to complete the test work to see whether there would be enough pressure to pump oil from beneath the Sussex countryside, and is now asking for longer to complete the work.

Francis Egan, CEO of Cuadrilla, said: “We were unable to undertake the permitted exploration well testing works within the allocated time, primarily due to the length of time and resource it has required for us to commence operational activities in our Lancashire exploration licence area.

“There were also changes to the environmental permitting requirements for the Lower Stumble site which required assessment.

“The new planning application will cover the same scope of work as the previous permission: a flow test of the existing exploration well followed by plugging the well with cement and fully restoring the site.”

Cuadrilla has now made the new application to the Environment Agency to vary permits, which the Environment Agency is currently considering.

However, local residents have long objected to developments in the village.

Many objected to Cuadrilla’s plans during a two month consultation period earlier this year.

The Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association said: “We do not want Cuadrilla here at all.

“We do not want heavy industry in our village, and the traffic it will bring, not to mention the risk to our health and environment.

“Balcombe would be a ‘foot in the door’ for the industry, who would need a great many wells across the Weald to access the unyielding rocks they are now targeting.

“Cuadrilla have designed a new 45ft flare to burn off unwanted gas.

“Flares are extremely noisy and give off serious pollutants.

“Public Health England said in 2014 that Cuadrilla should address the risk to the community from toxic s ulphur dioxide from the flare. They have not done so.”

Balcombe was the scene of high profile demonstrations in 2013 when Cuadrilla planned to frack in the area.