Industry

Seven-year-old scheme for Surrey exploratory oil well can’t estimate total lorry movements – inquiry hears

A traffic management consultant, working for Europa Oil and Gas, could not give an estimate for the total number of heavy goods vehicle generated by a proposed exploratory drilling site near Leith Hill in Surrey.

Richard Elliot was giving evidence to the public inquiry into Europa’s application for an oil well at Bury Hill Wood, on the edge of Dorking.

The inquiry is the latest stage in a seven-year planning dispute between Europa and local people. It has included a previous inquiry and two court hearings.

Mr Elliot was asked by the Leith Hill Action Group, which opposes the scheme, how many HGV journeys would result if the permission were granted.

Mr Elliot said there would be 110 movements for drilling services and supplies.

Stephen Whales, for LHAG, asked “What is the overall tally associated with the development?”

Mr Elliot replied “681, excluding site restoration”. He said he had excluded restoration because there was no certainty about the number of vehicles needed.

Mr Whales asked: “Why is there an odd number?”

Mr Elliot replied: “It would be better if it was even.”

Mr Whales said: “You have had seven years to come up with that number.”

“You have just had it”, Mr Elliot replied.

“That cannot be right”, Mr Whales said. “How can it be an odd number?”

Mr Elliot was asked to provide a more definite number during the afternoon session.

The inquiry had heard there was a 6ft 6” width restriction in force in Coldharbour Lane. Mr Elliot said this was designed to deter through traffic and could not apply to vehicles visiting the area, including farm machinery and school coaches.

He also gave more details of a traffic management plan for the proposed site.

Mr Elliot said lorries bringing stone and hardcore for the base of the site would park in laybys on the A24. They would then travel towards the site off Coldharbour Lane in groups of three. At Knoll Road, a residential street on the edge of Dorking, they would park again in a holding area. This would happen about four times a day, Mr Elliot said.

People living in Knoll Road have objected to the inquiry because they are concerned about lorry noise and obstructions to their properties.

Mr Elliot said he wanted to work with rather than against, local people. He said the plan was designed to improve safety, regulate traffic and, protect the historic banks of the sunken lane of Coldharbour Lane.

He said he would ask for a traffic order preventing parking in the proposed holding area in Knoll Road. In Coldharbour Lane, he said Europa would operate stop-go board controls in narrow sections so that lorries could get through. There would be complete road closures when the rig was being delivered.

This morning’s session also heard evidence from Lisa Toyne, a landscape architect for Europa. More details soon.

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