The High Court on 6–7 November heard a judicial review brought by the Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association seeking to challenge the grant of planning permission by West Sussex County Council to Cuadrilla”) dated 2 May 2014. The development permitted was “[t]emporary permission for exploration and appraisal comprising the flow testing and monitoring of the existing hydrocarbon lateral borehole along with site security fencing, the provision of an enclosed testing flare and site restoration at Lower Stumble Hydrocarbon Exploration Site, London Road, Balcombe, Haywards Heath, West Sussex, RH17 6JH.”
The claimant’s grounds of challenge are:
- The resolution to grant, and the Permission which followed were based on an unlawful failure to give effect to the requirements of paragraph 112 of the Minerals Practice Guidance March 2014;
- The Council made a material error of fact and/or misdirection as to the legal effect of an Environment Agency permit concerning the monitoring of pollutants in light of the consultation response of Public Health England;
- In resolving to grant planning permission and in the Permission which followed, councillors unlawfully proceeded on the basis of a material error of fact and misdirected themselves as to what the Health and Safety Executive had considered before tendering its advice;
- The resolution to grant planning permission and the Permission were unlawful in being based on an error of law as to the potential relevance in law of Cuadrilla’s past conduct, including breach of conditions, during the operation of its previous activities in Balcombe;
- The Planning Committee erred in law in failing to take into account as a material consideration the number or “weight” of representations made in opposition to the proposal; and
- The councillors proceeded on a flawed legal basis in respect of (i) the cost of policing arising from the proposal and (ii) “local finance considerations” pursuant to s. 70 of the TCPA 1990.
The claim was resisted by West Sussex County Council.
The Judge, Gilbart J. reserved judgment.
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James Maurici QC appeared for the Defendant, West Sussex County Council.