As a Balcombe resident I would like to alert you to the door to door, 'Lock the Gate' survey undertaken by a team of 17 people over many hours, which came out as 85% against, 9% unsure and 6% pro-fracking. 150-200 people came from Balcombe today to join the protest is as accurate as we'll get on numbers, certainly over 150. We sang our version of Jerusalem as we walked and with the protestors down there.This shows the strength of feeling in a village of approx 2000 residents.
The government are making it too easy for fracking to take place, having originally said we will have tighter controls and regulations than in the US, now we find that the government are using recent bills to enable them to rush this through the planning process without due consideration to communities involved. Not only this, but now, possibly because the process is taking a long time here in Balcombe, George Osborne is saying permits will be able to go through in as little time as 2 weeks.
We were not consulted about this drilling rig, the planning permission was on a tree on a fast road where no-one stops outside of Balcombe. Our Parish Council had no idea what they were letting themselves in for (who had heard of fracking a couple of years ago?) When the Parish Council put it to a vote (after investigating and informing the residents about the process) 82% of voters said they did not want this process to happen. Cuadrilla have NO social license to be here. This is middle England saying NO, normal people who (quite happily) have not been politically active before, have woken up and realised it is time to stand up to protect their community, this is grass roots democracy saying NO.
We have tried all the official channels and so far they are just not listening enough. We are happy that protestors from outside care enough to come and stand up against this process. I have been down there nearly every day and met genuine, concerned and informed people from: Forest Row, Hayward's Heath, Cuckfield, Danehill, Chichester, Brighton, Lewes and so on. They have every right to be there, Ardingly reservoir is one of only 4 reservoirs that serves the whole of the South East. This area has been deemed to be an area of 'water stress' in the future, we cannot afford to put it at risk. People have an absolute right to come here from further afield, they drink the same water. (Remember Fracking not only risks polluting the water supply but uses 20 million litres of water per well).For those that come from Lancashire, Somerset and the Solent I salute you, you are or are about to experience the same problems that we are. This is much bigger than Balcombe it's about people being desperate to be heard and be listened to.
The media may try and paint a picture that the protestors are not from Balcombe, as indeed our own MP does, they are from Balcombe and further afield and we welcome their efforts to help get this issue out into the open.
Why shouldn't we frack? My father's an engineer and if there is one thing engineers know its Murphy's Law- 'what can go wrong - will go wrong'. What we see with fracking is that time and time again it DOES go wrong. There is no such thing as 'fracking' which 'when done properly doesn't go wrong' (thank you Egan). Cuadrilla have a 50% failure rate with their wells in Lancashire. In Pennsylvania and Australia there is peer reviewed and documented evidence of environmental pollution and health problems in children and adults around this industry. Once we have polluted the land and covered our country side in the infrastructure of fracking (compressor stations, drills every few miles, flares, heavy traffic carrying noxious chemicals and silica dust, that is the carcinogenic 'sand' in America, that blows around work plants), we will find that the pollution is irreversible. This industry is about oil companies who have greater lobbying power than green industries and people who stand to make a lot of money through it.
Why is our MP not shouting more loudly about this? He tells us he 'cannot speak up in parliament,' but his statements are ill-informed and betray a complete lack of understanding of his constituents wishes in Balcombe. As far as I am aware, despite requests he still refuses to hold a surgery here in Balcombe until November. We can only begin to wonder if there is a link between his appointment of Lord Browne (non-executive chairman of Cuadrilla) to a government position and the fact that he is letting Cuadrilla move into this community without defending us.
Why shouldn't they drill? It is a very grey area and a mute point whether this drilling is conventional or unconventional. If it was 'conventional' like the other oil wells in sussex, then why do they need a special 'fracking rig' to do it? The 'etching' process involves acid stimulation of rock with hydrochloric acid and as such is extremely close to the definition of fracking itself, some have coined it a 'low pressure frack'. They can horizontally drill (much less usual) they will still go through the aquifer, and put acid down, there are gill streams close by which link through tributaries to the Ouse which feeds our reservoir. Cuadrilla must deal with their NORMS (Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials) properly or there is a risk of contamination to our water. I have no faith in Cuadrilla, they were about to go ahead without the mining waste and radioactive waste permits in place. They over-drilled for 2 months without permission in Lancashire and they cracked one well and had a problem with another. What can go wrong will go wrong Francis Egan and you have proved that in fracking, it DOES.
I don't think the Environment Agency has the resources, man-power or level of expertise in this area to be able to regulate this properly. New and startling evidence is coming in from abroad every day, can they keep up with it? Even if they can, can they enforce it when companies break the rules? Why did they not stop Cuadrilla from drilling when they should have because of issues around bird protection? Will they protect us here?
50% of wells leak after 15 years (Schlumberger). This is a dirty industry and nothing can convince me that it will make the country a better place for me and my children, either now or in the future.
Thanks, Helen Savage