Press Release, 10th August 2014.
The fight continues - Europa has yet to secure planning permission
We continue our campaign with as much determination as ever to stop Europa drilling at Bury Hill Wood, off Coldharbour Lane.
We are waiting to hear from the Planning Inspectorate as to the process it selects to re-determine Europa’s appeal against Surrey County Council’s refusal to grant planning permission. It is most likely to be a fresh Public Inquiry, although unlikely to be on the scale of the last one. We should know the selected format by the end of August. There is no reason why the case put by LHAG at the last Inquiry cannot win again so we have real reasons to feel positive.
You may have seen notices in April about Europa intending to apply for planning permission to drill an ‘underground corridor’. As Europa’s application lacked information on critical areas including ecology and aquifers, Surrey County Council has requested complete details, setting the timetable back for this application. The proposed drilling corridor goes under the pub-end (east) and the church-end (west) of Coldharbour. It seems a nonsense that an application so intrinsically tied up with the original application may be decided separately. We will work hard to get the decision deferred and will need supporters help. When the month-long consultation period approaches, probably mid-to-late September, we will let you know via this website and our newsletter together with guidance on how to object. We share concerns voiced by many about this application, especially the impact on aquifers.
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 five and a half years and this is why we are hugely grateful for your support as we couldn’t have got this far without it.
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 they also concede is less than one in three!
Press Release, 22nd April 2014.
The Leith Hill Action Group (LHAG) is taking its five-year campaign to prevent the proposed exploratory hydrocarbon drilling at Bury Hill Wood, off Coldharbour Lane, to the Appeal Court next week.
With the likely dates of 30th April or 1st May yet to be confirmed by the Court, this latest round of legal action results from LHAG’s appeal against the High Court decision in July 2013 at the Royal Courts of Justice to quash the planning inspector's decision made after the public inquiry in July 2012. Then the planning inspector's decision dismissed the appeal by Europa against Surrey County Council's refusal in May 2011 to grant planning permission to exploratory drill for oil and gas at Bury Hill Wood, off Coldharbour Lane.
If LHAG wins the Appeal Court hearing then, in all likelihood, it will bring an end to Europa Oil & Gas’ planning application at Bury Hill Wood. If the judges find in favour of Europa Oil & Gas then the planning application reverts to the position when Europa Oil & Gas had lodged an appeal to Surrey County Council’s refusal to grant planning permission in December 2011. At this point, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, has the right to determine what should happen next. His options include: refusal of the planning application, approval of the planning application (overriding Surrey County County’s original decision to refuse permission) or a fresh public inquiry.
Patrick Nolan, Chairman of LHAG, comments:
“As we approach our Appeal Court hearing date, LHAG remains as resolute as ever to preserve this fragile area of outstanding natural beauty from inappropriate development. Whilst Surrey County Council has dropped out of the fight, LHAG and its supporters have continued the campaign as we believe passionately that it is our responsibility to preserve our natural environment for future generations to enjoy.
“Oil exploration and production should be for the benefit of the nation not for the benefit of exploration and production companies. There are other less sensitive sites served by more robust infrastructure from which potential deposits can be explored. Exploration must be undertaken responsibly, avoiding long-term damage to the local environment, even if it involves additional cost.
“We have been working with our barrister, preparing a robust appeal that we believe presents a strong and valid argument. We may not know the result of our appeal for several weeks after the Appeal Court hearing. We thank our supporters who have made this five-year campaign possible through their passion, hard work and generosity."
LHAG wins Heart of the Community Award
LHAG has been awarded £2,500 as a result of coming top in the Environment category of Surrey Mirror's Heart of the Community Awards. Thank you so much to everyone who voted for us - we are thrilled to have won!
And there's more good news. Thanks to our fundraising team working so extremely hard and the generosity of our supporters attending our events and sending in donations, we are delighted to report that the fundraising total to date has passed the target!
Legal battles are costly affairs however, and so we would like to have a contingency in the account in case of overrun on the fees. We won’t therefore be stopping our fundraising efforts even though we have hit our target.
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. However, LHAG were granted leave to appeal that decision and after taking legal advice from our barrister, as well as having been provided with legal advice from one of the country's top planning solicitors and other planning advisors, we submitted our appeal. The appeal hearing was heard at the Court of Appeal on 30 April 2014. We must now wait for the result, which could take a number of weeks to come through. This website will be updated with the result as soon as we have it. 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.
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.
To Stay Informed
We produced a regular newsletter during the campaign to keep people informed. People were able to subscribe by clicking the button below.
We needed to have raised £50,000 by the 10th July 2012 to pay for legal fees and expert witnesses at the public inquiry and 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. 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.