Friends of the Earth campaigner Brenda Pollack said "councillors have not listened to local people" over fracking and claimed an imminent exploration project was an attempt to "set the wheels in motion for dirty fossil fuel extraction."
A West Sussex County Council report said the number of vehicles involved in the oil and gas exploration project near Balcombe was not concerning and emissions would be controlled to ensure water quality would not be compromised.
The report also said the rig and flare on the site would be visible at times but that it would be short lived. The plan involves cleaning the existing borehole and carrying out "flow-testing" by pumping fluids from the well into tanks on the site and flaring any gas.
A planning committee said the conditions of the approval were "proportionate and fair".