VILLAGERS are celebrating a victory in their campaign against an oil company but warn its plans could be destructive if they go ahead.

West Sussex County Council planners have recommended councillors reject Angus Energy’s proposal to run three years of oil drilling tests in Balcombe village near Crawley.

The council claims there is no economic necessity to drill for oil in the High Weald countryside as the UK has plenty of oil.

But Frack Free Balcombe Residents’ Association campaigners still warned villagers would suffer if councillors approved the plans.

“The feeling among many of us, particularly parents, is that this should not be allowed in the light of climate change,” said campaigner Helen Savage.

“So little oil will be produced from this well it is not worth the risk to the environment and our wellbeing in the village to produce here.

“When there are so many renewable energy alternatives making more money, we have to ask ourselves what the point of coming to Balcombe is except to spin money for shareholders.

“Our local solar energy company has made more money from Balcombe than any oil company has.”

The campaigners also commissioned an independent report by consultant Tapajos stating some of Angus Energy’s claims were based on “poor science”.

Previous reports by the oil firm claimed its drilling tests, which use hydrochloric acid, would only pose a low risk to groundwater in the area.

But Tapajos’s report argued Angus Energy’s understanding of the risk was “wholly inadequate”.

“The view on the groundwater quality is based on a fairly limited and infrequent groundwater monitoring and sampling from the Ashdown Beds aquifer,” the report read. “The limited sampling is considered insufficient. Should hydrochloric acid enter a transmissive aquifer unit connected with a stream, it can cause environmental damage.”

But Angus managing director George Lucan insisted there would be a very low risk of damage.

“There is in excess of 1,000 feet of robust steel casing and good cement bonding to the surrounding rock between those depths at which oil extraction is intended to take place and any conceivable water source,” he said.

“Our monitoring is not limited and infrequent. The use of acid has been customary for more than 100 years.

“There has only been one site in the UK onshore in the past 30 years which has experienced failure of well integrity resulting in any pollution.”