11 March 2015
Celtique Energie Weald Ltd (Celtique), as Operator of licence PEDL 231, has decided not to lodge an appeal against the refusal of planning permission by the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) for the drilling of a single exploration well at Land at Nine Acre Copse, Vann Road, Linchmere, West Sussex. The deadline to lodge an appeal at Fernhurst is 16th March 2015.
The proposed exploration well would have tested for the presence of conventional oil or gas in the Kimmeridge Limestone and Great Oolite formations and take log and core data in the Kimmeridge and Liassic shales. However, recent changes in the Infrastructure Act 2015 restricting unconventional oil and gas development in National Parks mean that one of the exploration aims, namely the evaluation of the shale properties, is no longer feasible. This is in conjunction with Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) reinforcing new planning guidance regarding oil and gas developments in National Parks in England, stipulating that applications should be refused in these areas other than in exceptional circumstances and where it is in the public interest. At present there is too much uncertainty over how this test will be applied in practice to justify investment in National Parks.
Furthermore, Celtique, as Operator of licence PEDL 234 has decided to withdraw the appeal against West Sussex County Council’s (WSCC) decision to refuse planning permission for the drilling of a single exploration well at Land South of Boxal Bridge, Northrup Field, Wisborough Green, West Sussex.
The reasons for withdrawing the appeal at Boxal Bridge are primarily due to the impact of the Inquiry delay has on future exploration and potential appraisal operations that need to be completed in order to deliver a development application within the licence time period. Delays to the Inquiry date have resulted in the Planning Inspectorate’s 16 week target date for the start of the Inquiry of 27 February 2015 slipping to 8 September 2015. Celtique were advised that the delay was due to the unavailability of a suitably qualified Planning Inspector. By the time the Inspector’s decision is received and the period for any third party legal challenge to that decision has expired, there will be insufficient time to drill a well at this location prior to the end of the licence term of PEDL 234 in June 2016.
Notes to editors
The Wisborough Green (WG) planning appeal was lodged on 15th October 2014 with a start date of 7 November 2014. The Planning Inspectorate’s target for hearing an appeal is within 16 weeks of the start date, which would have been 27 February 2015, and an initial date was proposed for a 4 day Inquiry in the week commencing 11 May 2015. However, the Inquiry has been extended from 4 to 12 days and would have taken place over 14 separate days during 8th to 30th September 2015, with associated cost increases.
With the Inquiry set for September 2015 (some 15 months after the July 2014 planning refusal and 11 months after the appeal was lodged on 15 October 2014), it is now considered likely that a WG appeal decision will not be made before the end of 2015, some 18 months after the refusal of planning permission. In recognition that the PEDL 234 licence expires in June 2016 Celtique believe there will not be sufficient time to drill at WG within the current licence term.