Very good news! FrackFreeFernhurst write:

‘FFF is delighted that the SDNPA planning committee have turned down Celtique Energie’s application for exploratory drilling at Nine Acre Copse. In rejecting this application they have not only taken the advice of their own planning officer and accepted the government’s own confirmation that such development should only take place in a national park in exceptional circumstances but also listened to the over five and a half thousand people who have objected to this proposal (as opposed to the eleven who have expressed support of it). Clearly a national park is not the right place for a large-scale “industrial experiment” (Andrew Tyrie MP), and we are relieved to see that the SDNPA have upheld their objectives to protect the national park and the community within it.

Right up until the last minute Celtique demonstrated their lack of respect for our community with their continued attempts to mislead both the public and the planning authorities with disingenuous and incorrect statements and material.

We would like to thank all the organisations and individuals who have tirelessly campaigned for and contributed to our campaign – from Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the National Trust, the Woodland Trust, RSPB, CPRE, the South Downs Society to those who visit and love the national park and of course the residents of Fernhurst, Lynchmere and the surrounding area.

One thing that the last 16 months have shown is that we live in a community which is willing to work together and support each other when faced with a crisis. We hope that our village can now return to being the peaceful and happy place that it was before we faced this unwelcome and inappropriate threat.’

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Environmental Health Officers urge Councils to oppose fracking

The Chartered Institute for Environmental Health (CIEH), which represents Environmental Health Officers, has urged Local Authorities to oppose fracking until they are fully confident about the health risks to people and the environment.

They’ve said there are “major shortcomings” with the regulation of shale gas and there is currently not enough evidence to be sure that fracking is safe.

The report suggested that shale gas was unlikely to displace coal, and would contribute to, rather than help tackle, climate change.

It concludes: “The combination of weak regulation, diminishing resources within regulatory bodies, inexperience of industry and regulators, lack of an appropriate monitoring framework, poor industry compliance and potential conflicts of interest within the planning regime is disquieting”.

Thanks to Ruth Hayhurst for the information.  Read her full report here.

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West Sussex County Council refuses fracking application

Tory-controlled West Sussex County Council’s Planning Committee has refused Celtique Energy’s application for planning permission for a temporary well off Kirdford Road near Northup Copse.

This is an important milestone in the campaign against fracking – it’s the first council in England to turn down an application for exploratory shale oil drilling.

Local residents had campaigned hard against this application, in particular highlighting the impacts of the heavy lorries involved in fracking in this rural area.

The committee refused permission on traffic grounds and as it felt Celtique had not demonstrated the location was the best option compared to alternatives.

Read more:

Friends of the Earth report

West Sussex County Times report

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Horse Hill: Environmental permit application submitted

Horse Hill Development Ltd has today applied to the Environment Agency for a Mining Waste Environmental Permit for the Horse Hill site.

You can find all the documents here: https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/portal/npsapp/horsehill/horse_hill_developments_limited_1

The consultation runs until 15 July.

Please do share your comments on the documents. We will share reactions and information in due course.


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Don’t let companies drill under homes without permission

The government has announced it wants to speed up processes to allow onshore drilling and part of this will be to change the law so that companies can drill under your land without permission.

Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace have created a petition to all MPs.

You can sign the petition here

Public meeting

Building the movement

against shale gas exploitation in Surrey

Chilworth Village Hall 

Wednesday 7 May, 7:30pm


Please come to help plan how we build the movement against fracking in Surrey.

We intend to hold regular events to inform local people of the issues concerning the exploration for and exploitation of shale gas and oil in Surrey.

We also intend to establish local village groups, for example Frackfree Shalford, Frackfree Chilworth, etc.

To find out more, contact frackfreesurrey@gmail.com


Shalford meeting raises awareness of shale gas

Nearly one hundred people from Shalford, Chilworth and Albury, and even some from much further afield, attended a meeting at Shalford Village Hall on 12 April to find out more about shale gas and its extraction by hydraulic fracturing.

The event was organised and hosted by Shalford resident Seorais Graham, who was alarmed by how little local people seemed to know about the subject aside from the official government rhetoric.

Seorais said, “The company IGas holds a licence for on shore oil and gas development in this ‘area of outstanding natural beauty’ therefore we can’t afford to ignore the potential risks that any fracking development may bring.”

Dr Damien Short, a senior lecturer in human rights at the University of London, who lives in Chilworth, co-hosted the proceedings. Damien runs The Extreme Energy Initiative, which monitors the human rights impacts of unconventional fossil fuels.

The Truth Behind The Dash for Gas

An edited version of the documentary The Truth Behind The Dash for Gas was shown. This film pulls no punches. It explores our own government’s close ties to the powerful oil and gas industry.[1] It also covers the serious and under-reported consequences of fracking: serious negative effects on health; damage to the environment – in particular water contamination – and major social disruption.

Graham Warren, an independent hydro-geologist from Kent, then gave a detailed presentation, supported by diagrams, about the local geology. He concluded that, “there would appear to be the makings of a case against shale gas extraction as posing a significant threat to the integrity of the local water resource“.The Weald is full of naturally occurring fault lines that could lead to the migration of fracking fluids to aquifers.

Supporting protesters

Kathryn McWhirter, a resident from the West Sussex village of Balcombe, followed with a sincere and moving account of how her life has been transformed since Cuadrilla set up a fracking rig only fifty metres from her house.

She has been forced to become an expert on the oil and gas industry, as well as planning laws, in order to fight for the survival of the village she loves. Her tireless campaigning has become a priority over all her other work.

But she is not alone in her efforts – a ‘wartime spirit’ has united many of the villagers against Cuadrilla; only a minority support its activities. And she has made many more friends since the arrival of the protesters, or ‘protectors’. She encouraged everyone at the meeting to be open-minded about them: academics, students and professionals, who lay down in front of the convoy of Cuadrilla’s HGVs.

Kathryn’s first hand experience and wide-reaching research has convinced her that fracking should be banned throughout Britain. The growing number of communities who are joining together to stand up against the government’s plans to implement shale gas extraction prove the Chinese proverb that she cited, ‘many fleas makes the dog jump’, may be coming true.

Better aware than in the dark

After the presentations, everyone present was invited to join the discussion.

John Brockwell, a councillor from Albury, explained how the parish council was holding monthly meetings with IGas about the Albury well site and its future plans. Seorais asked John about whether he could trust a company that falsely claimed on its website that there have been ‘more than one million wells drilled around the world and in no case has there been a single case of water pollution’.  John said it was at least good to be engaged with them – better to be aware of what is being planned in the local area than not, better to know about fracking and its potential consequences than to stay in the dark.

Thanks to the knowledgeable guest speakers and the content of the film,  people left the meeting not only with a better understanding of the threat of fracking but hopefully inspired to start organising ‘frackfree communities’.

Another meeting to move forward on organising these local groups – open to all – will be held at Chilworth Village Hall on Wednesday May 7th at 7:30pm.

Contact:  frackfreesurrey@gmail.com

[1]    http://extremeenergy.org/2013/07/25/economically-and-politically-fracked-behind-every-picture-lies-a-story-statistical-reality-versus-pr-hype-within-the-political-project-of-unconventional-gas-in-britain/

Fracking. Where are we now?

We haven’t heard so much about fracking – or shale gas extraction – since Cuadrilla packed up and left their site at Balcombe in Sussex at the end of September. But it hasn’t gone away. The government is still pretty keen on it, and wants to offer the industry “the most generous tax regime for shale in the world”.

So where are we?


It is often suggested that fracking does not cause “environmental effects if it is done correctly”. I’m afraid I can’t agree that there would be no damaging environmental effects if fracking is done ‘correctly’, but it is true to say that proper regulation can be used to reduce them. Which is why it is worrying that the UK’s Environment Secretary appears to be actively trying to find ways to resist new EU regulations designed to do just that (as reported in the Telegraph recently – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/oilandgas/10370306/UK-fracking-ambitions-threatened-by-EU-warning-over-methane-emissions.html)


Even if fracking could be made environmentally safe, shale gas is still a fossil fuel and will contribute to increased CO2 emissions at a time when we need to be reducing them to stave off the worst effects of global warming. Those who claim that shale gas emissions are lower than coal are on shaky ground according to research into fracking site methane leaks, which suggest that, overall, fracking’s contribution to the greenhouse effect is actually greater than that of coal (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10584-011-0061-5). And the idea that shale gas will be burned instead of coal, rather than in addition to coal, strikes me as a bit fanciful. (As George Monbiot commented recently “using shale gas as a ‘bridge’ to a low-carbon economy is like using chocolate fudge cake as a bridge to a low-calorie diet”.)


Lots and lots of water. One fracking site uses the same amount of water in a day as the whole of Gatwick Airport, according to a local water company manager in conversation with a local Green Party Councillor recently. If fracking is given the go-ahead it won’t just be one little site in Balcombe or The Fylde (and one is disruptive enough) – there will be eight or more wells per square mile across the countryside. That’s a lot of extra water to find, especially in an area like South East England, which is already water-stressed.


In my view, there really isn’t much of an economic case for fracking. Shale gas will be no cheaper than any other gas, so will not contribute in any way to the alleviation of fuel poverty. (The price of gas in the USA is currently very low because they have an over-supply of gas and they are not connected to an export market – they are working on building facilities for that. The situation in the UK is completely different – we are connected in to a Europe-wide market and any gas produced will be sold at the prevailing market price. See http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-17/the-american-myth-of-cheap-oil-and-gas.html.) Fracking will create jobs of course, which we desperately need, but it actually isn’t a very labour-intensive business.

Shale gas is ultimately a short-term, but potentially very damaging, distraction from what we should be doing – creating hundred of thousands of jobs insulating millions of poorly built (or just old) homes and offices, and building renewable energy generation capacity (from domestic solar to off-shore wave and wind). If we allow fracking to happen here, we will be decimating our landscape – see http://www.flickr.com/photos/amymyou/9431314171/ – in a last desperate attempt to put off the inevitable reduction in fossil fuel consumption by just a few years. [UPDATE 12th Dec 2013 - it has been pointed out that the Flickr picture referred to above may not be of fracking sites, but conventional oil drilling sites. Fracking sites would apparently not be so close together. So fracking in Surrey might not look quite as much like Texas as the picture suggests, but I'm not sure that makes me feel any better about it.]

Local interest?

Locally we are keeping our eyes on an application for exploratory drilling by Magellan Petroleum in Horse Hill near Horley. Planning permission was granted by Surrey County Council (SCC) in January 2012, but work hasn’t started at the site yet. A local Green Party Councillor recently noticed similarities between this application and Cuadrilla’s application in Balcombe.

Further investigation revealed that an important technical document referred to in other parts of the application – the ‘testing and stimulation document’ – was missing. This has now been made available, and reinforces the view that what is proposed at Horse Hill is some form of fracking. The document is dated October 2013, so was clearly not available when planning permission was granted, so Green councillors are currently checking whether SCC should conduct a further consultation on this application given the new information. In the meantime, residents living near the site have been in touch and are doing their own research into the drilling proposal.

The documents relating to the Horse Hill application are available on the Reigate & Banstead Borough Council planning portal (visit http://planning.reigate-banstead.gov.uk/online-applications/search.do?action=advanced and search for application 10/02089/CON). The recently received testing and stimulation document can be downloaded from our website – here.