Cuadrilla’s secret meeting with Balcombe Parish Council

Fracking company Cuadrilla has held a secret meeting with members of Balcombe Parish Council (BPC).

The meeting undermines the company’s claim that ‘no firms plans have been made for Balcombe’ and was facilitated by Nick Sutcliffe, Guildford District Councillor and lobbyist for PPS Group, who represent Cuadrilla. Members of BPC and its working group on hydraulic fracturing have also been in close correspondence with the company.

Writers from this website have sent Freedom of Information requests to BPC obliging it to reveal the content of this secret meeting and correspondences. As of April 16th BPC has 19 further days to respond – documents released will be published here.

BPC and its working group are under increasing scrutiny after research showed three members have vested interests in the fracking industry:

Alison Stevenson
BPC co-chairman & working group member
Stevenson until recently worked as ‘Principal Engineer’ at Capita Symonds a large engineering firm. Capita Symonds are enthusiastic supporters of the fracking industry, recently sponsoring a shale gas conference in Durham. Speakers included a Cuadrilla geologist and several other industry luminaries. It is unknown what Stevenson’s role as Principal Engineer entailed; she has not to our knowledge declared this interest to BPC.

Norman Sayer
Working group member
Sayer works for the fracking industry in Oman. He works at a Omani ‘tight gas’ field owned by BP which has been fracking there since 2008. Sayer divides his time between the Middle East and the United Kingdom and has worked in the oil and gas industry for 30 years.

Mostyn Field
Working group member
Field’s employer also provides services to the fracking industry. His Linkedin profile describes him as working for WesternGeco, which provides seismic surveying to the oil and gas sector, including fracking. WesternGeco is part of Schlumberger, which is heavily involved in fracking in the US. In his comments on this website, Field described himself as ‘having a degree in Geology’.

Rodney Saunders
BPC co-chairman & working group member
At a stormy public meeting in January, Saunders apologised for waving Cuadrilla’s planning application through with no scrutiny. Since then Saunders has overseen the secret meeting with the company, and appointed three people to the working group who have conflict of interest, in direct contradiction to his own stated requirements that working group members have “no vested interest in the proposed exploration”. Questions, therefore, must be raised as to Saunders’ competence to investigate hydraulic fracturing.

The population of Balcombe, meanwhile, are becoming increasingly skeptical as to the contents of the BPC report on hydraulic fracturing, due out next month.

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27 Responses to Cuadrilla’s secret meeting with Balcombe Parish Council

  1. Correctoman says:

    1) If the meeting was secret why is it common knowledge?
    2) Isn’t it preferable for the working group to talk to the company in question rather than ignore them?

  2. Pingback: Balcombe Council refuses to release details of secret Cuadrilla meeting | gasdrillinginbalcombe

  3. Spidergran says:

    Thank you for putting your news and subsequent debate on public view. This is more than could be said for the hydraulic fracturing industry and their supporters. It is easy to see through their technical and intellectual posturing: as if the bottom line were not made up of bank accounts, power or payment of mortgages; as if there wasn’t Shell ripping the heart of northern Alberta over Tar Sands. Our living spaces are part of the economy – doh !!!

  4. Katy Dunne says:

    Rodney, Though you say the blackpool earthquakes could only be detected by specialist equipment, they were large enough that they actually damaged the well casing which as far as I can see means there is a danger of leakage due to damage from tremors.

    ‘Cuadrilla report – Geomechanical Study of Bowland Shale Seismicity
    Synthesis Report
    2 November 2011
    ‘Casing Deformation and Wellbore Integrity’
    Following the 2.3 magnitude earthquake on April 1, Cuadrilla met with BGS to determine the best
    way to set up a seismic monitoring system for future fracture treatments, so that if any seismic events
    were incurred on future frac stages their position could be located with reasonable accuracy. When the
    recommended monitoring system was deployed preparations were made for conducting the Stage 3
    fracture treatment. Cuadrilla attempted to run the zone isolation plug above the Stage 2 frac
    perforations. However, it was not possible to land the plug at the desired depth of 8550 ft. because the
    plug would not go down the wellbore past 8506 ft. A casing caliper tool was run and it was
    determined that the casing was deformed from a circular shape to an oval shape. The deformed
    interval was observed from approximately 8480 ft. to 8640 ft. The casing above and below that
    interval was not observed to be significantly deformed. Figure 34 shows a scale drawing of the
    deformed casing interval in the wellbore (deformed interval shown in YELLOW, near bottom of

    • Katy, the deformation of the steel casing into an oval shape was more likely to be due to an inadequate cement sheath between 8,640′ & 8,480′, rather than the tremor damaging a good sheath.

      The importance of a competent cement sheath outside the casing, & of checking it {cf Deepwater Horizon} after placement/ before stimulation, cannot be over-exaggerated.

  5. Katy Dunne says:

    A corporation is driven primarily by responsibility to its shareholders wallets. Therefore anyone with industry connections is in danger of being swayed by corporate gain rather than for the collective good of people and land.

  6. Rodney Jago says:

    No ,I have not! I cannot” look “at the “earthquakes” in Blackpool as they could only be detected with specialist instruments! Gas price inUSA is now one quater of the European price. US will soon be exporting gas. We will still be dependant on unstable and expensive supplies from overseas.
    Wage packets are indeed relevant.I no longer have one but if every airport, motorway,power development is blocked by the protest movement where will future generations go for their wages?

    • Howard Young says:

      Rodney, If we continue to ransack our planet for more and more and carbon fuels we will kill the goose that lays our golden eggs. We must now start to take responsibility for our action on this planet. It is no longer just about the Bottom Line, it is about the survival of the biodiversity that this planet needs to survive in its present form. Even if global warming was a myth, this would still be the case. We are on the Titanic and it is time to start doing more than shuffling the deck-chairs. Fracking is controversial even in the US. Open your eyes Rodney, put away your wallet, and start to smell the flowers for once.

      • Tony says:

        Well said, Howard.

        Sadly corporations and their apologists are seriously short-sighted. What they perceive to be the “bottom line” – money as profit – is not. There is a much bigger, heavier and ultimately important bottom line which we right now seriously risk throwing into irredeemable debt, and that is our “account” with the environment that sustains us and upon which we fundamentally depend. Unless we immediately begin to pay back into this account our “civilisation” and society is toast! This will require all our human ingenuity, and not a little pain too, but it has to be done.

        First we have to overcome the fear this uncomfortable reality invokes in our fellows, like Rodney, making them feel safer denying it than acknowledging it and taking it on board. We must immediately begin to reverse all our impacts on the planet, especially on both the climate and ecosystems (where we can), and discover entirely new ways to live our lives within the constraints we have at last realised a finite planet imposes on us.

        • Councillors who have a pecuniary interest in operations in their parish must declare it; such councillors have to leave the room when the issue is discussed. They cannot vote on the item.
          If they have failed to declare the interest, they fail the Standards compliance. They then can be asked to stand down from the Council.

    • Katy Dunne says:

      To jobs on beautiful permaculture farms, to jobs teaching people real skills, to jobs making quality bicycles and ingenious new forms of transport, to jobs engineering solar pannels on houses, and wind power. To jobs insulating and making houses ecologically sound. To teaching children about the wonder of nature and our reliance on her, both scientifically, psychologically and spiritually. As writers turning the past into myth and stories to warn us to never be so silly again.

      • Katy Dunne says:

        PS. Above is a reply to Rodney asking ‘if every airport, motorway,power development is blocked by the protest movement where will future generations go for their wages?’

    • Rodney, we are not talking about infrastructure we are talking about energy. We cannot move to renewables via a transition fuel. It’s a clear case of government picking winners. Business just doesn’t work like that. Will.

      • Mike Rill says:

        GDIB writes business doesnt work like that. Which is interesting as the way business works to my view disproves this whole news item.
        (As a polite mesure as the rest of this site has people on first name terms or anonymous,I’ll use Mr and Ms rather than just surnames if you don’t mind)
        Mr Sayers works for BP, so what possible advantage would there be in helping cuadrilla out. If you work for Sainsburys its not in your interest to help Tescos build a supermarket in your town.
        Mr Field works for WesternGeco and a short search (more than two minutes in linkedin though) shows that Cuadrilla have hired WesternGeco’s rivals CGGVeritas to acquire a sesimic survey up in Lancashire. So actually it makes more sense for Mr Field to block this development as it could mean more work for his rivals.
        Ms Stevenson works for a large civil engineering outfit and Caudrilla pride themseleves on both drilling and fracking themselves and not using sub-contractors. SO no point in sniffing around Cuadrlla for work
        Thats how business works in my experience you up against the rival companies in your sector. Only politicians or pressure groups try to push or ban a whole sector.
        (not on the payroll of any company remotely associated with this project, just to save some of you the bother , as irony seems lost on you)

        • Howard Young says:

          Hi despite all this sudden attention to detail by the ‘we love fracking’ fraternity, it is still a proven way to start an earthquake (Blackpool) and an unsustainable form of energy. Why do people just seem to stick their fingers in their ears and shout ‘the economy the economy’ as the earth slides into the twin irreversible calamities of Bio diversity destruction and climate change? We are on the Titanic and the ice-burg is just ahead, but everyone is discussing the price of the menu.

        • Alison Stevenson says:

          I would ask why the author of the article thinks the meeting with Caudrilla was “secret”. 

          2 obvious scenarios spring to mind, either we didn’t keep the fact we’d met them at all secret or there is a mole on the working group. I can hardly believe we have a mole so the first must be true.

          We have always stated our intentions to keep open a dialogue with Cuadrilla and correspondence has been supplied before under a previous FOI request.

          Norman Sayers is indeed heavily involved in the oil industry. He was chosen for the working group precisely for that reason. He had relevant knowledge and experience. He was one of 2 applicants with drilling experience.
          Mostyn does indeed work for a seismic survey firm in the gas and oil sector.  He is a trainer there and was added to the group because he has a degree in geology.
          I have never worked in the gas and oil industry and it was news to me, and to my divisional director, that we have an energy dept. I do still work for Capita Symonds so the until recently bit is inaccurate. My line of work is currently highways, although I have done sewage treatment, drainage, etc in the past.
          The article says it is unknown if I have declared my interest…. The implication is heavily protected by the wording. The author may well be unaware but I can assure them that my employment interest is fully disclosed and held by MSDC in their register of members interests, which is obtainable from them.

          The working group comprises, a drilling engineer, a geologist, a highway engineer, a chemist, an environmentalist, a lawyer, a construction industry 
          project manager, a journalist, someone from the financial sector and a housewife who used to work in marketing.

          The allegations as to Rodney’s actions and competency are unfounded and liabalous.

          I am disappointed that there is growing concern about the report if what is reported is true. But not surprised. Previous posts on this website reported alleged concern over the working group membership before we had even chosen the members!!! 

          The report will come out hopefully in the next month in the form of a short précis of our findings and research. The intention at present is to post the larger background reports on the village website. Including the written questions and answers to our Cuadrilla meeting.

          • First: perhaps Councillor Stevenson could clarify where she or the council ‘stated our intentions to keep open a dialogue with Cuadrilla’?

            Second: responding to an FOI hardly constitutes being open – it’s a legal requirement.

            Third: her register of interests at Mid Sussex District Council appears to be unavailable online.

            The Councillor says she was unaware Capita Symonds has an ‘energy department’. The division of Capita Symonds within which Councillor Stevenson works (Design and Infrastructure) helped to build the Milford Haven Gas Pipeline: a £1bn project with 300km of pipeline from Milford Haven in West Wales to Gloucestershire, capable of carrying a fifth of the natural gas required by the UK. Capita Symonds provided full project services on two of the pipeline’s major sections in South Wales – Milford Haven to Aberdulais (120km) and Felindre to Brecon (80km).

            Was Councillor Stevenson unaware of this project?

    • Spidergran says:

      Your specious refusal to look at Blackpool seismic activity suggests a defensive stance. Gas prices in the UK will NOT come down because extraction will be costlier than in the US. But hundreds of thousands of jobs could be created by concentrating on green energy instead. And how much healthier and diverse our environment would be had not so much been destroyed to make way for airports and motorways. Have you noticed how our decision-makers always choose the quick fix, usually involving shed-loads of cash, instead of considering the future generations you mention?

      • Howard Young says:

        Well said, I hear they say that that nation can still be divided up between Cavaliers and Roundheads, perhaps it should be divided up between those who have their eyes open and those who have their wallets open?

  7. Howard Young says:

    Rodney Jago, look at the earthquakes in Blackpool! Any connections with the Industry yourself at all? eh?

  8. Rodney Jago says:

    You impugn the integrity of committee members whose qualifications & experience are actually relevant but do not mention OTHER members some, not all, of whom you can rely on to follow the (green) party line regardless! Anyway good news today at national level. Economic Recovery; 1 Nimbys; Nil . cheers!

    • You forgot to mention the influence of the wage packet. Any ‘impugning’ is done by the fact of financial interests.

      • Mike Rill says:

        I looked at buying ahouse in Balcombe once , shockingly over priced.
        I would have thought the influence of keeping their house value up was more of a driver than the wage packet.
        Good news that the working party has a geologist, driller, engineer and according to Rodney jago Green party members, sounds balanced and well qualified.
        What would you have preferred a tinker, tailor, soldier, spy etc etc
        Not sure that would have been a good idea
        (a geologist, so therefore apparently inherently untrustworthy, yet my friends speak so well of me LOL)

    • Katy Dunne says:

      If you think Fracking is going to be responsible for economic recovery you are misguided. Oil and Gas are finite resourses and are running out. Economic growth has followed the rate of extraction of these fossil fuels so unless we completly change our outlook on energy, consumption and how to live with a planet rather than off a planet we a doomed to a rather bleak future. We are addicted to fossil fuels to the point that many refuse to imagine life without them. It is greed not need which is fuelling this addiction. Revisioning a new world which doesn’t rely on dead dinosaurs is literally the only way forward. They will run out someday in the relatively near future and we are pulling the wool over our own eyes if we believe otherwise. In china the word for crisis means both danger and opportunity. Which do you wish to choose?

  9. Tony says:

    Staggering! Does this suggest these people are “plants”, deliberately moved to Balcombe to husband the applications through council? It’s a helluva coincidence otherwise, isn’t it?!

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