Thursday, 8 August 2013

Balcombe Fracking - More News of Dodgy Dealings

Private Eye reports that after two weeks of protests in the village of Balcombe, West Sussex, United Kingdom, villagers keep asking themselves: who allowed Cuadrilla to drill on our doorstep?

Planning permission for the US firm's test on the Balcombe estate - owned by Simon Greenwood, a great grandson of the first Lord Cowdray - was granted by West Sussex county council (WSCC) in 2010 and expires at the end of September. If Cuadrilla had waited any longer to start work it would have had to reapply, and this time round it could have expected strong opposition to a revised planning application. So why was the original one waved through? Because almost nobody knew about it. The WSCC planning officer wrote to Balcombe parish council in January 2010 drawing attention to the application, saying that if no comments were received by 18 February "it will be assumed that the parish council has no objection".

In March, after a reminder, the parish council clerk confirmed that "the matter was discussed at the last regular meeting" and there was "no objection". Shome mishtake? There is no record of any discussion" in the minutes of the Balcombe parish council meeting in February 2010. The only fleeting reference comes after a debate on an application for a carport, in a brief sentence noting that Simon Greenwood, who is a parish councillor, "mentioned" a recent application at a site off London Road. And, er, that's it. No debate, no vote and no declaration of interest from Greenwood, who stood to earn tens of thousands from Cuadrilla. WSCC then approved the application using delegated powers, precisely because of the lack of public objection. As the exploratory drilling begins, Greenwood and parish clerk Richard Greig have some explaining to do to irate villagers.

PS: Simon Greenwood's mother, Anne, was given Balcombe by the Cowdray estate as a dowry. But his cousin Lord Cowdray is on the other side of the barricades: he supports protesters at another West Sussex site, Femhurst, and recently revealed that he refused to let Cowdray land in Femhurst be used for drilling because of the environmental impact on the area.
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