CAMPAIGNERS calling for a frack-free village are concerned that a company’s plan to drill for oil will “change the character of the region”.

Cuadrilla, a company exploring and developing shale gas, wants to flow test the well it drilled in Balcombe in 2013, using acids and other chemicals. If the oil flows, it plans to apply for additional planning permission for long-term production.

Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association (FFBRA) is calling on residents to join the campaign to stop Cuadrilla gaining permission to carry out work on the site.

Kathryn McWhirter, a member of FFBRA, said: “This new kind of oil prospecting would require the drilling of a very large number of wells and would change the character of the region.

“The new oil wells at Balcombe and Broadford Bridge are ‘feet in the door’.

“We love the places we live for their natural beauty, tranquillity and the rural vibrancy of our communities. To us it is outrageous that oil companies want to force industrialisation upon us.”

Residents are objecting to the proposal on the grounds of air pollution from the flare and diesel equipment on site and the large number of lorries travelling through the village past the primary school, church and their homes, while carrying chemicals and waste.

Villagers voted in 2014 to keep oil companies out of Balcombe, after Cuadrilla drilled a well at the Lower Stumble site the year before.

West Sussex County Council gave Cuadrilla planning permission to return and residents contested this through a Judicial Review in the High Court, but lost.

Cuadrilla didn’t show up in Balcombe to do the flow testing and planning permission expired in May.

On October 27, Cuadrilla submitted a new planning application to flow test the well drilled in the summer of 2013 and has stated that if it finds oil in recoverable quantities, it will apply for further planning permission to start producing oil.

Brenda Pollack, Friends of the Earth South East Campaigner, said: “This is in the heart of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. People come here to enjoy the beautiful countryside not to see and hear dirty oil operations.

“We know that burning fossil fuels contributes to dangerous climate change. West Sussex council must refuse the plans. Allowing companies to drill underground for ever more difficult to extract oil and gas reserves is bonkers when it won’t help keep polluting emissions down.

“They haven’t given any good reasons why they didn’t carry out this work within the three years allowed by the council so we see no reason to allow things to drag on now.”

Friends of the Earth have set up an online draft objection letter which people can use to object to the plans.

A Cuadrilla spokesman said: “Our planning application for our site in Balcombe covers the same work-scope as the previous planning permission - a flow test of the existing exploration well, plugging the well with cement, and fully restoring the site. It follows new ecology surveys and environmental assessments undertaken this summer, all of which demonstrate no material environmental impact from this relatively modest work scope.”

To join the consultation, which ends tomorrow, visit