Lower Stumble – Community Liaison Group

BALCOMBE PARISH COUNCIL was approached at very short notice to participate in a Community Liaison Group (CLG) with Angus Energy, WSCC, The Environment Agency and MSDC.  The CLG has been set up to provide a conduit for information to and from the local community and Angus Energy regarding the forthcoming flow test activity at Lower Stumble in Balcombe.   The first meeting took place on Wednesday 5 September.   The following information was supplied by Angus Energy (Please click on the link below).

Balcombe 7 Day Flow Test – Angus Information

The next meeting is scheduled to take place on 20 September and before this time Balcombe Parish Council will seek to recruit 4 residents to be part of the Community Liaison Group. We will be communicating with the village in the next few days to let everyone know how this will be done: we will be transparent about the process and for this reason we felt that we could not fairly recruit 4 people to attend the first meeting.
Please note that the CLG is a condition of the Planning Approval. No information on timescales for any activity at Lower Stumble has been given to date and Balcombe Parish Council will update you through our website as soon as we can. We would also point out that the Community Liaison Group is intended as a method of conveying information back to villagers, not for revisiting the debate around the granting of planning and environmental permits. That will not be permitted by the Chairman, Bill Acraman.
Full notes from the meeting will be available shortly but herewith a link to a document compiled by Angus of Frequently Asked Questions with questions asked by Balcombe Parish Council below.

Balcombe Flow Test FAQ @7.9.18 – Autumn 2018


Question: I assume that this is a private meeting and the terms of reference of the liaison group will not be met until the Parish Council has elected the community representatives on the 19th September. Does this mean therefore that the discharge of this condition in the planning decision notice and subsequent flow test will not start until after the 19th September and the inaugural Community Liaison Group has been arranged?

Answer: Yes this will be a private meeting and the condition No 21 in the planning decision notice has been discharged because it reads as follows:-

 “Prior to commencement of the development hereby approved, the applicant shall submit a scheme for approval in writing by the County Planning Authority detailing the establishment of a local liaison group to include representation from the site operator, WSCC and local residents.  The scheme shall include its objectives, membership, frequency and location of meetings and arrangements for the publication of minutes.  Liaison group meetings shall be held in accordance with the approved scheme.”

This does not indicate that the meetings have to have taken place before the work starts just that a local liaison group should have been established.  Having said this Angus Energy are keen to stress that they would be happy to repeat the presentation when the four representatives come on board to bring them up to speed at the next meeting, and would be happy to arrange further site visits by appointment for those interested.

Question: Is the injunction to keep protesters to the allocated site still in place and will it be enforced by the police.

Answer: Angus has  no injunction.  The present injunction is through WSCC.   WSCC have promised that they will follow this up to find out whether it is still fit for purpose and can be enforced.

Question: What is Angus Energy’s financial status, what reserves are in place for contingency and crisis management?   Who provides insurance cover?

Answer: Angus is publicly listed on the stock market.   Other information is commercially sensitive so not available.   The Oil & Gas Authority has given permission for this activity which means that insurance is in place and there is adequate finance. 

Question: The Community Liaison Group should be in the public forum – all Balcombe residents should attend?   Can Angus organise a public meeting to introduce themselves and explain their plans to the community?

Answer: It was agreed that the CLG should not be in the public forum because this would be unworkable.    Angus said that perhaps a public meeting could happen after the flow test because there is not much to say beforehand.





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EA issue Permit for Lower Stumble Aug 18

The Environment Agency permit has been issued for the Lower Stumble Site.

Please click on the link for more information.


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MSDC Changes to Bin Collection Timings

From Thursday 2 August the Mid Sussex recycling and rubbish collections will start from 6am.

The hot temperatures we’re experiencing this summer mean working conditions are tough for our bin collection crews and this change will give them more time to work in the cooler part of the day.

Please ensure your bins and boxes are placed out ready for collection the evening before, in plenty of time for the early start.

Thank you for your cooperation and understanding.

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Heatwave Advice from West Sussex County Council

Level 3 heat warning issued to West Sussex residents
Highs of 31 degrees are expected this week, and lows of 16 overnight.

Residents in West Sussex are being advised to take precautions with heatwave conditions continuing this week, according to the Met Office.   A Heat Health Watch Level 3 has been issued for the South East from 2 July with highs of 31˚C during the day, and 16˚C expected overnight.  High temperatures are then expected to continue into the weekend.
West Sussex County Council is reminding everyone to take extra care, as heat can have a severe impact on health, and during hot spells vulnerable groups, such as the very young, older people, and those with underlying medical conditions, can feel the effects of the heat more.
Hot weather can also make heart and breathing problems worse.

Make sure you keep well hydrated with plenty of cool drinks, keep safe in the sun, use sun cream, wear a hat and look for shade if you feel you need to cool down.

Some tips on how to cope in the hot weather are:
• avoid getting too hot in the first place – keep windows closed if it is cooler inside, close curtains or blinds. Open windows again when it starts to get cooler outside and temperatures drop but be mindful of security
• check your home’s thermostat or thermometer to see how hot your home is getting
• have plenty of cold drinks and avoid alcohol
• have regular cool baths and showers
• avoid being outside during the hottest part of the day (11am to 3pm), stay in the shade and avoid strenuous activity
• wear appropriate cool, light clothing and a hat
• when going outside, make sure you and your family use sun cream at all times to protect your skin
For more advice, you can visit the WSCC Safer Seasons page.
Anyone worried about their health during hot weather or a heatwave, especially if taking medication, feeling unwell or having any unusual symptoms such as weakness, feeling faint, headache, muscle cramps, feeling sick, heavy sweating and intense thirst, should contact their doctor, speak to a pharmacist, call NHS 111, or visit the website. Alternatively get a neighbour or friend to help you get help.

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Rail Updates from Jeremy Quin MP

Anyone wishing to contact Mr Quin on Rail or other issues can do so via Jeremy.quin.mp@parliament.uk (including name and postal address) or to Jeremy Quin MP, Gough House, Madeira Avenue, Horsham RH12 1AB

Rail Update 19.06.18

Since my last update very active pressure has continued to be applied to GTR, Network Rail and the Government to sort out the current timetabling mess.

I am working closely with my West Sussex colleagues, in particular Sir Nicholas Soames and Nick Herbert and we have been talking to Ministers together as well as one-on-one.

As part of maintaining the pressure, Nick Herbert secured and I joined, a debate in Westminster Hall this morning to which the Rail Minister was required to reply. The debate enabled me to raise specifically Balcombe. You can view a clip of the debate here: https://goo.gl/PE3Tm8 . The Minister is becoming increasingly familiar with Balcombe: I also (successfully) raised the station with him in the main chamber regarding the new timetable before its attempted introduction, he has received my representations on the emergency timetable and heard today about the ongoing concerns and frustrations of Balcombe commuters.

In responding to my intervention the Minister implied (as previously flagged) that the core problem in delivering the new timetable was the failure to have sufficient drivers ready and trained on the routes. While the causes behind this will be subject to the ongoing enquiry I am primarily focussed on where it leaves us right now. GTR are training drivers, this should enable them, as promised, to roll out the new timetable and reliably expand the existing service. However I am conscious that training is a driver intensive process and the summer holiday season will soon be upon us. I am seeking specific assurances on the roll out of training and its timing implications for the reliable extension of services.

I specifically raised two practical issues with GTR on the emergency timetable. I received assurances that pressure would be brought to bear to ensure fewer (hopefully no) trains would “skip” Littlehaven station. My understanding is that this problem has seen a marked improvement.

Secondly I raised the absurd lack of arrivals into Balcombe station between 18.17 and 19.47.

As a direct result of representations made, new stops were introduced at 18.50, 19.07 and 19.20. In all three cases these require a change for passengers leaving London Bridge on the 18.07, 18.17 and 18.33 services respectively. I am well aware of the problems related to requiring passengers to change and the difficulty associated with doing so. I specifically raised safety (and accessibility) concerns associated with crowded platforms in this morning’s debate.

I am seeing the Rail Minister (again), GTR and Network Rail tomorrow morning. The general points including unreliability, crowded trains and platforms and compensation are clear and will be hammered home. There are also specific points which have been flagged with me about the emergency timetable that I will be raising.

Rail update 06.06.18

Thank you for contacting me regarding RailPlan2020 and the appalling failures in the introduction of new timetable.   Following the failures I was in immediate contact with the Department of Transport.  I have raised concerns on the floor of the Commons, I met the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling and met Charles Horton, former Chief Executive of GTR. I will continue to make the strongest representations on this matter until we have the reliable train service passengers pay for.

Resolving the Current Problems

Following the failure of the new timetable’s introduction the immediate aim has been to revert to a timetable under which advertised services run reliably and consistently from day-to day.  Commuters need to know what trains will be running rather than there being an advertised service subject to random cancellations and delays.  Restricting the service to a more limited number of trains as per the old timetable is the last thing I wanted to see but is the only way to ensure that the service can regain reliability:  passengers need to have confidence that the trains will run as advertised and this has to be the priority.  

This breathing space will allow GTR time to train drivers on the new routes they are operating, without which the new services simply cannot be delivered.

This process will take weeks but having done so they anticipate a steady increase in the number of train routes being provided until the new timetable, in its entirety, is reintroduced.  I wish I could give a greater degree of confidence on timings and exactly what will be resumed when, at this stage I cannot.  I do however think it is imperative that new services are only reintroduced as and when they can definitely be reliably maintained. 

Specific Problems

Aside from the problems which are general across the area (but vary greatly in their intensity between stations) I have had some specific issues drawn to my attention:

1. Littlehaven

There have been numerous examples of “station skipping” at Littlehaven.  This causes huge inconvenience to passengers and, adding to the frustration, produces only very limited operational benefit to the Operator given that the trains are already running slow on their approach to, or departure from, Horsham.  I took this up with the Chief Executive of GTR, Charles Horton, he sees no reason why his should continue and has promised to look into it immediately.  I have asked for a response in writing.

2. Balcombe

The emergency timetable has a major and lengthy vacuum in the evening peak.  This is particularly frustrating given our successful efforts to improve the station’s peak morning service on the new timetable.  Having explained the precise timing of trains to Balcombe in the evening Mr Horton and his team recognise the point.  They have assured me that there is an ongoing process of going through the emergency timetable to address gaps in service.  Balcombe appears to have an obvious and major gap.  They have agreed to revert to me in writing, swiftly, as to how and when this will be addressed.

Other issues raised by constituents have also been flagged and if there are further specific concerns for me to raise with GTR please email and I will do so.

What went Wrong

I reluctantly anticipated some problems would transpire in what is the largest ever timetable change-over but nothing can excuse the scale of problems that was manifest on introduction and which no one anticipated: the industry experts responsible for the implementation of the new timetable were issuing assurances only weeks and days before it came in that all would be well.

I understand that Network Rail was very late in signing off and finalising the timetable changes (and concluding engineering works which contributed to the issues) but even so, after this, the operators believed they had sufficient trained drivers to take on the services being advertised.  They didn’t.

I have welcomed a full independent investigation into what went wrong which will look at Network Rail, the Operators and the Department for Transport itself. We need to know exactly who was to blame and what contributed to the failure so that effective action can be taken. Running the railways especially in the most congested railway network in Europe is complex which is why they are run by professional industry experts but there has been obvious and significant failure. The Government has powers that it can invoke in these circumstances and I am determined it should follow through the conclusions of the independent report and take appropriate and action. 

Additional compensation should without doubt be paid where this is appropriate.

The Future and the New Timetable

I am very frustrated that what was meant to be the successful culmination of very significant investment:  a better and more reliable service, has instead resulted in huge grief for passengers.   There are real benefits that should flow from the investment.  Some of these are apparent from the new timetable such as more through trains and in some cases increased and faster services.  However on our lines I was frankly more excited about the prospect of greater reliability and resilience as I was assured that the new investment, new rolling stock, rebuilding London Bridge, more through trains and the new timetable would all make the network easier to run and problems easier to isolate.  

I believe all of this is still deliverable and I do not wish to see these management failures result in a reduction in the Government’s commitment to continue to provide investment on de-bottlenecking and improving our service.  For too long our network was deprived of investment and problems were allowed to escalate. 

We need the ongoing investment but we these must be planned and run properly.  For example I welcome the fact that the engineering works in Balcombe Tunnel which are absolutely necessary to reduce the problems faced on the London-Brighton line are being advertised already for specific times  this autumn and February 2019 but these must be competently and effectively managed to ensure that the service resumes as promised and is not delayed by Network Rail.

I will continue to focus on this with the Department, Network Rail and the Operators and will keep constituents informed.

Meanwhile on the new timetable itself I have received both supportive and critical emails from constituents.  Where problems were flagged in the consultation and even after the consultation was concluded (in the case of Balcombe) I raised issues, with success, with GTR.

There is no timetable change that will please every passenger.  However I received an assurance from the Rail Minister last month on the floor of the Commons that the new timetable was not set in stone and following its introduction could be improved.  I think it is important that the service is returned to reliability first but I am then very keen to look again at usage and see how the services can be upgraded to meet passenger requirements.

Jeremy Quin – Member of Parliament for Horsham

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Motivate Heading

Balcombe Parish Council has represented the commuting body giving input on recent rail consultations but note that the number of local commuters getting involved could be greater if we are to keep our service.   The recent slash of peak hour train times has been a good illustration.   Please have your say and express your wishes for Balcombe.   Contact Southern Railway, Help and Support, or Thameslink Railway Help and Support.  You can also write to our MP Jeremy Quin at jeremy.quin.mp@parliament.uk



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Angus Energy Approved

Angus Approved May 2018

The Oil & Gas Authority has approved Angus Energy for Balcombe Operatorship.   Please click on the link for more information



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