Under the Greenwood family tree

Don't Frack With Our Future

Don’t Frack With Our Future

AFTER two weeks of protests in the village of Balcombe, West Sussex, 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.

Shome mishtake, shurely?

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.

Irate fellow-villagers

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, rather than committee, 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 fellow-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, Fernhurst, and recently revealed that he refused to let Cowdray land in Fernhurst be used for drilling because of “the environmental impact”.

Published by Private Eye.

If anyone wondered why Cuadrilla was in such a hurry to start drilling, it is easy to see why, planning consent expired next month.

The Parish Council, who one would have expected to have raised a strong objection, not a murmur. Simon Greenwood, on whose land the drilling is taking place, who stands to make a tidy packet, is also a parish councillor.

When the leader of Lincolnshire county Council was in a similar position, not only was he kicked off the council, he also spent time in prison.

At the County Council would have expected a heated discussion. But no, it is decided by delegated powers, in other words by officials behind closed doors, and never got put before the committee.

Nick Sutcliffe PR mouthpiece for for Cuadrilla is also a Guildford Borough Tory Councillor. He sits on the standards committee and did sit on the planning committee!

Details from Guildford Borough Council:

address: 11 Bateman Grove, Ash, Surrey GU12 6QG
tel: 01252 345506
e-mail: Nick.Sutcliffe@guildford.gov.uk

Lord Browne, now with Cuadrilla, former boss of BP, presided over a number of disasters which preceded the Gulf Deepwater Horizon disaster. Rewarded for failure with a seat in the House of Lords. The Gulf Deepwater Horizon disaster was one of many BP disasters and symptomatic of failures of senior management. Lord Browne also acts as government advisor. It is nice to know David Cameron can rely on such impartial advice when telling the country we must accept fracking.

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