For over 7 years LHAG has been successfully fighting proposals by Europa Oil and Gas to sink a bore-hole to explore for oil or gas deposits under the Surrey Hills AONB, which would be extracted by conventional methods, not by fracking. From our inception we have not been an 'anti-oil' lobby, our objections all concern the proposed site and the large amount of construction traffic which is being proposed in order to clear the site and erect the drilling machinery and all of its infrastructure. We have stated repeatedly that if an alternative site was chosen outside of the Surrey Hills AONB then we would be likely to withdraw our objections.
3rd Planning Application
September 2016. A 3rd application has now been published by Surrey Council Council wherein the applicant proposes to increase the size of the red-line area of the site by over 25% and to introduce a large amount of new infrastructure including buildings and fencing. LHAG is actively opposing this application on many grounds.
Autumn 2016. Following a period of inactivity the applicant has now started responding to all of the 23 new conditions imposed by the planning inspector at the last public inquiry. LHAG is monitoring each response very closely and with help from Hazel Watson is corresponding with SCC planning officers to highlight and oppose any proposals which contravene the conditions of the original planning applications.
The 2nd Planning Application
September 2015. Not surprisingly, the 2nd 'pan-handle' application was approved by the SCC Planning and Regulatory Committee despite objections from LHAG, Capel Parish Council and Sutton and East Surrey Water. The next public consultation will be for the highly-contraversial Traffic Management Scheme, advise for how to object will be published at the appropriate time.
Result of second Public Inquiry
The second public Inquiry has found in favour of Europa Oil and Gas. The Inspector's decision letter can be found here.
We are naturally disappointed at the decision which has been announced. We now look to Surrey County Council to ensure that, if the development proceeds, the Conditions attached to the consent are monitored and enforced so as to minimise the adverse impact on the Surrey Hills AONB and to protect the safety of all road users and residents affected.
Europa have been granted planning permission but they must still obtain the permits necessary to be allowed to drill. As such, please do not think that any drilling is imminent. We will aim to keep you informed of the latest status as Europa continue to seek to cross all hurdles.
We are grateful to every one of the individuals and organisations that have supported us over the last six and a half years and allowed us to be legally represented at both Public Inquiries and in the Courts. In particular we must thank Mole Valley District Council and the Lush Foundation.
The second Public Inquiry
The second Public Inquiry ran from Wednesday 22nd April to Friday 24th April and then from Tuesday 28th April to Friday 1st May 2015. An extra day was scheduled for closing submissions on Thursday June 11th at Dorking Halls. Turn up any time between 10am and about 3pm (proceedings normally finish about 4pm) and you should be able to see the final day for yourself.
We have written a review of the Public Inquiry so far, which can be found in our Newsletter 34.
The Leith Hill Action Group (LHAG) came together in early 2009 to oppose a planning application to explore for oil or gas in the Surrey Hills AONB. In May 2011, Surrey County Council refused the application and in December 2011 an appeal was lodged by the applicant against the decision.
LHAG was granted Rule-6 status to be a full party alongside the appellant and SCC in the public inquiry, which took place in Dorking Halls from 10 - 19 July 2012. A decision from that inquiry was received at the end of September 2012 and confirmed that Europa's appeal was unsuccessful. The application to drill for oil was not therefore approved.
However, in November 2012, Europa launched a challenge to that decision in the High Court. LHAG were included as third defendants at that hearing and produced a number of witness statements to that end. Our barrister represented us in the High Court at the hearing, which took place on 23rd and 24th July 2013.
Sadly, Europa won that appeal and the Planning Inspector's decision made at the Public Inquiry has been quashed. Although LHAG took the case to the Court of Appeal, we were unsuccessful and so we now face a second Public Inquiry where a new planning inspector will decide whether to uphold Surrey County Council's original decision to refuse planning permission. The Public Inquiry is due to start on 22 April 2015 and will run for 7 working days.
In addition, Europa has submitted a secondary (and related) planning application to cover the underground, horizontal element of the drilling. This application is yet to be determined by Surrey County Council. We thank all of those of you who wrote to object to this application. We share your concerns about the potential damage the drilling could have on principal aquifers in the area. We will keep you updated on progress with this application and the main application via this website and our newsletters (see below).
You can also stay abreast of developments by signing up to our newsletters (see newsletters to sign up and to see copies of previous newsletters. Alternatively, click on the button below to sign up to the newsletters).
Our mission is to preserve this fragile area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and protect it from this inappropriate type of development. We believe that the same potential deposits can be explored from a less sensitive site.
A successful planning application at Bury Hill Wood will set a dangerous precedent and may lead to other drilling operations within the AONB. The impact will be long-lasting on the beautiful and fragile natural environment surrounding us. This is why we have been fighting so hard for over 6 years and this is why we are hugely grateful for your support as we couldn’t have got this far without it.
To persuade government and legal decision makers to dismiss the appeal on the same grounds that Surrey County Council refused the original application (see Documents).
We believe that less sensitive sites exist served by more robust infrastructure to cope with the associated HGV movements. It is not our intention to 'sterilise any potential deposit' by preventing exploration as we appreciate the national need to secure domestic energy supply. The applicant should undertake any temporary exploration activity in a responsible way, avoiding any long term damage to the local environment, even if it involves extra cost.
Whilst the application is for temporary operation, there is no doubt that there will be permanent environmental damage, especially to Coldharbour Lane, and significant disruption to residents and visitors of this popular beauty spot and Knoll Road in Dorking.
And all of this is for a tiny amount of oil, even if it is found. Using Europa’s own optimistic resource figures, we estimate that this prospect could produce at best 0.014% of UK energy demand over 25 years (i.e. little more than one-ten-thousandth of demand!). That is if there’s anything there at all – which Europa also concede is less than a one in three chance!
To Stay Informed
We produce a regular newsletter to keep our supporters informed. You can subscribe to our newsletters by clicking the button below.
We are now back on the fundraising trail. We estimate that we need to raise £5,000 from our supporters by mid-April 2015 to cover professional fees for our representation at the Public Inquiry. We are exploring other funding avenues and organising fundraising events to generate the rest of the funds that we need. If you would like to make a donation, it would be very gratefully received; please see our How To Donate page for more details.
You have respoonded brilliantly to our request for funds in the past:
- We needed to have raised £50,000 by 10th July 2012 to pay for legal fees and expert witnesses at the public inquiry. WE DID IT! We actually raised over £55,000.
- We needed to raise a further £4,500 by the end of September 2013 to pay for the High Court challenge. WE DID THIS TOO!
- We needed to raise £25,000 by the end of Q1 2014 to pay for the appeal at the Court of Appeal. WE MANAGED IT!
In the event of LHAG being dissolved, surplus funds will be returned pro rata to our donors in the manner described in our constitution.