Key Messages for Journalists
* This continues to be a long process, which is nowhere near finality. Europa have to fulfil over 20 conditions, most of which require further planning permission. Many of these planning conditions -- including those hardest to fulfil -- have yet to even come to public consultation. Europa also need to apply for Environmental Agency permits. Late 2017 is the earliest that any drilling could happen, and 2018 or later is more realistic.
* Europa have submitted additional plans not in the original application for considerable extra industrialisation. This includes fencing that will be visible in a way that the original application would not have been. They have made two such submissions -- one for 52 weeks and one for 18 weeks. The original permission for the whole drilling process was strictly for 18 weeks only, which was an important part of the Inspector's decision. Europa have tried to get these extra applications passed through as ancillary works. However, following legal representation from LHAG, the Secretary of State has agreed that the 52 week fence requires a brand new Environmental Impact Assessment, and strongly implied that the 18 week fence would need the same. This is an ongoing and important debate that raises questions about the acceptability of the whole project.
* LHAG continue to work hard to scruitinise every planning application put forward and are playing an active role in identifying areas of deficiency. Of the plans put forward to date, many are still in the consultation stage as a result of such deficiencies.
* The hardest condition to fulfil will be that of a workable road traffic plan, something that the Inspector himself doubted was achievable. No such plan has yet been put forward for public consultation.
* The presence of the protectors is an inevitable outcome of trying to force through something that is universally rejected by all parties other than Europa. LHAG has no official position on the on-site protectors. They are a matter for Europa and the authorities. We are not surprised, however, by something that was utterly predictable from the moment Surrey County Council received over 2000 letters of representation against the development -- from all over the country -- back when the development was first proposed.
* LHAG believes 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.