Road closures, stop-go boards and parking suspensions are among the proposals in a long-awaited plan for routing delivery lorries weighing up to 60 tonnes to Europa’s oil exploration site near Leith Hill in Surrey. The consultation on the company’s traffic management plan closes tomorrow (Wednesday 21st June).
The plan for Bury Hill Wood proposes to close a 4km stretch of road for up to three days when the drilling rig is delivered and again when it is removed. According to the plan, Coldharbour Lane will be shut to traffic from 9.30am-7pm between Knoll Lane on the edge of Dorking and the village of Coldharbour.
For other deliveries, the route, which includes a historic sunken lane, would have traffic controls, including stop-go boards and banksmen with radios.
If approved, the plan would suspend parking in part of Knoll Road, a residential street and route to a local school. The road would be used as a holding area for convoys of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) waiting to enter the site. A 30mph speed restriction would also apply on Coldharbour Lane.
Leith Hill Action Group, which has opposed Europa’s plans since 2008, has urged people to object to the traffic management plan. It said:
“Coldharbour Lane is a historic sunken lane currently signposted as unsuitable for HGVs. It will have 60 tonne crane carriers, 50 tonne drilling rig transporters and flatbeds carrying earth-moving machinery.
“Road closures and delays in Dorking traffic are likely to endanger any residents who need emergency services.
“Problems will quickly escalate to traffic flows across Dorking, which struggles to handle existing volumes.”
The proposals are a condition of planning permission, granted in August 2015, after a public inquiry. During the hearing, the inspector, Stuart Nixon, criticised Surrey County Council for failing to check the company’s traffic plans (DrillOrDrop report). He also told Europa:
“Your whole process relies on management down to the minute. But I am not sure that the information before the inquiry gives me confidence that you are able to achieve that”.
The Bury Hill Wood site, known in the industry as Holmwood, is in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the greenbelt.
The traffic management plan now before Surrey County Council uses the same route as the one set out at the inquiry. HGVs will travel on the A24 to the A2003 Flint Hill, then into Knoll Road and Coldharbour Lane.
Europa denied emergency services would be delayed and said it had responded to issues raised at the inquiry.
The company proposed using aluminium trackway panels for the base of the wellpad, instead of crushed stone. This would, it said, reduce the number of lorry loads during site construction and restoration phases from 194 to 44 and lorry movements from 388 to 88.
But Europa said some stone would still be needed and it wanted to keep open the option of using wholly crushed stone. Under the stone option, the development, scheduled to last 18 weeks, would generate 681 HGV loads, or nearly 1,400 trips, in vehicles ranging in weight from 20-60 tonnes.
Europa said it had also taken account of the popularity of the area among cyclists and would avoid delivering or removing crushed stone from the site on Saturday mornings.
The company’s traffic survey concluded:
“The size of the groups [of cyclists] and the speed they travel down Coldharbour Lane presents a high risk of an accident with serious consequences should there be a collision with an HGV, even if it is travelling at 30mph.”
But LHAG said the survey authors “play down the risks [to cyclists] at other times”. It also questioned Europa’s claim that there was “zero or negligible” risk to walkers and horse riders because the numbers were low.
The Surrey County Council consultation on the traffic management plan ends on 21 June 2017. Comments can be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org and should include full name and address.
Other planning issues
Europa has submitted three further applications for Bury Hill Wood that have yet to be decided.
- Installation of perimeter security and deer fencing, as well as offices, welfare facilities, fuel and a generator for 18 weeks (MO/2016/1563)
- Installation of perimeter security and deer fencing, as well as offices, welfare facilities, fuel and a generator for 52 weeks (MO/2017/0222)
- Tree felling, vegetation removal and installation of 1.1m reptile fence (MO/2017/0255)