UK Onshore Industry Disappointed by South Downs Ruling

The UK's onshore energy sector said Thursday that it was disappointed by the South Downs National Park Authority's decision to turn down an application to explore for oil and gas west of the village of Fernhurst, West Sussex.

Celtique Energie, the firm that had been seeking to drill in the area, said it was disappointed by the decision although it was "not surprised, given the SDNPA's public stance regarding oil and gas exploration in National Parks, both in Sussex and elsewhere".

Ken Cronin, chief executive of trade body UK Onshore Oil & Gas (UKOOG), expressed his regret at the decision in a statement:

"The UK has a long history of onshore oil and gas exploration and production, we have drilled over 2,000 wells across the UK, many in areas of outstanding beauty and national parks. We have worked closely with local authorities and communities to be sensitive to the environment to the extent that our operations pass largely unnoticed.

"The UK has a significant dependency on gas for heating, electricity and many products that we use every day.  It is predicted that by 2030 we will need to depend on foreign sources of gas for 80 percent of those needs. The UK has one of the strongest regulatory systems in the world for onshore development. In light of the overwhelming need and the strict regulatory regime the decision today is regrettable."

Commenting on his firm's wish to drill near Fernhurst, Celtique Energie CEO Geoff Davies said that he believed the SDNPA committee "appears to have made its decision based on a subjective and unjustified interpretation of planning guidance". He pointed out that the decision failed to take into account the importance of the project to the nation as a whole and the "comprehensive steps" that Celtique would take to ensure that all exploration work would be done sensitively during the temporary period that the firm would be working in the National Park.

"From our detailed studies we believe that this is the best available location to undertake exploratory drilling to quantify the amount of untapped oil or gas resources present in this part of the Weald Basin, which we think has the potential to be nationally significant. It seems wrong in these highly uncertain geopolitical times that the national and public interest can be given such low priority. If we are not even allowed to explore it will not be possible to prove how significant this resource could be for the country," Davies said.


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A former engineer, Jon is an award-winning editor who has covered the technology, engineering and energy sectors since the mid-1990s. Email Jon at


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