Residents fighting against fracking in their village take their case to the High Court today.
They are objecting to planning permission which has been granted for further works to be undertaken at Lower Stumble in Balcombe, West Sussex.
Lawyers representing the Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association (FFBRA) claim the decision by West Sussex County Council to grant permission to energy firm Cuadrilla was “unlawful”.
Law firm Leigh Day says the company, which previously had permission to frack for oil and gas at the site, has been given the go-ahead to return.
It said: “According to the latest application, permission was sought for exploration and appraisal of the recently drilled ’hydrocarbon lateral borehole’ together with a new 46ft (14m) high flare on the site.”
Planning permission was granted “despite massive objection to the development”.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a technique designed to recover gas and oil from shale rocks. Opponents fear it could harm water resources, cause small earthquakes, and that development of sites will cause noise and traffic.
Ugo Hayter, from the human rights team at Leigh Day, said: “We remain confident that the court will rule that this planning permission was granted unlawfully.
“Our clients are greatly concerned that this operation risks polluting the aquifer and nearby reservoir and flies in the face of overwhelming community opposition.”
Sue Taylor, a Balcombe resident and campaigner, said: “This planning consent sets a dangerous precedent that the concerns of the local community can be ignored even though it is their health and safety that is at risk.
“Flaring from oil wells close to residential areas poses an unacceptable threat to human health.”
Keith Taylor, Green MEP for South East England, who is supporting the association’s case, said: “The more residents understand of the risks associated with fracking, the less they want it in their area.
“I hope the judge takes this into account and rules in favour of the majority of people who oppose fracking in the Balcombe area.”
He added: “Clean renewable energy remains the long-term answer to climate change but by giving the go-ahead to fracking the Government is short-sightedly leading the country into a dead end energy policy.”
The case is being heard in London over two days by Mr Justice Gilbart.