My Week

Last Thursday I spoke to a meeting at Petworth House about fracking.  We had just heard the news that Celtique Energie has appealed against West Sussex County Council's decision to refuse planning permission to drill between Wisborough Green and Kirdford.

I repeated my belief that this is a totally unsuitable site for drilling because of the lorry traffic it would cause through Wisborough Green.  I hope we will win on appeal.

I also spoke about the the Government's recent amendment to the Infrastructure Bill, currently before the Lords, to change the trespass law to remove the ability of landowners to block fracking below their property.

I will look very carefully at this amendment, but it's important to point out that this covers horizontal drilling at great depths - below 300 metres or nearly 1,000 feet - and does not change the need for companies to obtain all the necessary planning and environmental permits.

It seems that many of those who have raised concerns about the proposal believe that it will licence a drilling invasion on the surface of their properties, but this is not the case.  There are other examples of where the Government takes powers to allow tunnelling underground, for instance to construct tube lines which are in fact much nearer the surface.

Nevertheless, it is important that these proposals are scrutinised carefully, and I will do so when the Bill reaches the Commons.

I also pointed out that, only in July, the Government issued welcome new planning guidance which creates a strong presumption against fracking in or adjacent to national parks.

I left the meeting to travel to Arundel to meet the Roads Minister, and then travelled back to Petworth for an enjoyable AGM of the Petworth Business Association in the evening.

I then caught an early train back to London on Friday to be at the Commons to vote - yet again - for the Bill to legislate for a referendum on European Union membership.

I travelled back down to Arundel on Friday evening for the annual dinner of the Arundel & South Downs Conservative Association, where we enjoyed an excellent speech by the former Attorney General, Dominic Grieve QC.

On Saturday the environment was again a theme as I joined a beach clean on Littlehampton's East Beach.  We are so lucky in West Sussex to have both our beautiful beaches and the Downs, and we should look after them.

Christopher N Howarth