Leith Hill oil drilling could trap people in homes and put lives at risk – opponents warn


Leith Hill eviction 170621 Dan Harvey 7

Site vehicle on Coldharbour Lane. Photo: Dan Harvey

Objectors to plans to explore for oil near Leith Hill in Surrey have accused the county council of trying to “smuggle through” unworkable arrangements for traffic.

The oil company, Europa, requires lorries delivering to the site at Bury Hill Wood to travel along Coldharbour Lane, which in places is steep, narrow and winding with high banks.

Leith Hill Action Group, which has been fighting the proposals since 2008, said yesterday the road could, in effect, be closed to non-site traffic during the development, which the company says will last 18 weeks.

Without independent evidence to prove otherwise, the group argued:

“People living on the lane will be trapped in their homes.”

It also said lives could be put at risk because of delays to emergency vehicles.

The traffic management scheme (TMS) is a condition of the permission granted by a planning inspector in August 2016.

According to the TMS, residents on Coldharbour Lane are urged to cooperate with traffic controllers who will marshal heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) many of which will be more than 40ft long.

LHAG said:

“Those controllers will communicate with each other by radio – because there is no mobile phone service on much of the Lane. So how do the residents communicate with them?”

The group said the TMS did not address this and other concerns. There had been no analysis of the impacts on local people.


Coldharbour Lane. Photo: DrillOrDrop

In a newsletter published yesterday, LHAG said:

“SCC [Surrey County Council] must require Europa to pay for an independent and open modelling exercise to be carried out to assess the viability and impacts of the scheme. Without that, SCC has no basis on which to wave it through.”

The group said until independent analysis proved otherwise, it believed:

  • The knock-on consequences of traffic using other routes into Dorking would be chaotic and expensive
  • Lives would be at risk as emergency services had to wait for site vehicles to negotiate the length of the lane or meet other traffic on narrower and longer alternative routes
  • The bus service between Coldharbour and Dorking would cease
  • Cyclists and horse riders would be at risk

The group’s chairman, Patrick Nolan, said:

“The inspector said, in effect, ‘I cannot see how this scheme can work; do it again’. Two years later we are presented with the same scheme. It won’t work.”

Leith Hill eviction 170621 Dan Harvey 4

Site vehicle on Coldharbour Lane. Photo: Dan Harvey

LHAG had expected the latest version of the traffic management scheme to be considered by councillors in September.

But the council has now told it that the TMS would be on the agenda for a meeting of the planning committee on 2 August. A consultation period will end on 31 July, after the shortest time allowed under council guidelines.

Mr Nolan said this meant “the abandonment of any pretence that SCC’s officers will pay any attention to what consultees and the public say”.

He added:

“The most outrageous thing about this attempt to smuggle things through is the fact that none of the concerns that we and other consultees have raised about what is missing from the TMS has been addressed.

“Our worry is that they [members of the council’s planning committee] will not refuse it, but instead just nod it through.”

Mr Nolan said the revised scheme would prevent HGV movements on a Saturday. He said:

“It further concentrates those movements, meaning that during the drilling period four HGV movements per hour will be necessary.

“75% of these movements will be of vehicles between 40 and 51 feet long, and 50% of them will also be over 9 feet wide and over 14 feet high.  These vehicles can only travel one at a time.”

Mr Nolan also questioned whether the estimated number of HGV movements in the TMS – nearly 1,400 –was accurate. He said the number could be about 1,650.

He said LHAG had warned the council in May 2016 that it should allow enough time to consult people properly on the traffic management scheme.

“Given how much warning we provided to both Europa and Surrey County Council about the importance of providing enough time for the consultation on the TMS, it is simply inexcusable that we are now in a position in which they are trying to rush it through without proper scrutiny.”

LHAG is urging people to object to discussion of the scheme by councillors until independent assessments have been made.

  • DrillOrDrop invited Surrey County Council to respond to the issues in LHAG’s newsletter. This post will be updated with any response.

24 replies »

  1. This has been raised here before,

    Coldharbour Lane is totally unsuitable for HGV traffic, let alone the LHV which will deliver the rig, that weighs at least 60 tonnes, maybe 100 tonnes unless they can deliver it in sections. The road surface is an ancient right of way, the structure is at best a thin layer of stone with tarmac on top, the width of the stone was made for carts, maybe 2.0m wide, the HGV/LHV will be 3.5 m wide and will not run on the stone subbase, but on a thin layer of tarmc either side.

    in short the road will quickly fail and collapse.

    The turning movements required have all ready damaged the fragile embankments, they will collaps with vibration and regular HGV traffic.

    Totally and utterly unsuitable for industrialisation, regardless of the desecration of one of this countries prime beauty spots.

    The presence of any industrial activity in this most beautiful spot is absolutely insane and should have bee refused at planning stage.

    This action represents a precedent and must be halted forthwith as this will be used as a precedent to invade and desecrate other precious beauty spots.

  2. Well ,get the company to provide an upgrade so the locals ,UPS delivery lorry ,farmers etc. will benefit from this in the long-term .

  3. If money had not been spent since 2008 opposing plans there would be plenty of money in the kitty for road improvements

    • The whole point is the roads don’t need improving. Currently, with the sunken lanes, it adds character to the area. They are narrow, they are, by definition sunken and a bit dark. We don’t want an A road being put through, or a nice dual carriageway, and without the thousands of multi tonne vehicle movements, we wouldn’t need any repairs.

    • We saw the damage at pallet towers and rabbit runs that had been dug out. Where do these ‘protectors’ go to the bathroom. Disgraceful behaviour from grown adults. Not to mention lack of respect for police officers. Not in breaking the law, but just general rudeness. Yes I am an investor. But I would support in my own area. I live on top of an empty pit so no biggie.

      • What damage?
        The towers were on a free standing foundation, tunnels were no more than a few feet thick and will naturally collapse over time, mostly natuaral materials were used.
        Compared to many tons of concretes, hundreds of thousands of cubic meteres of chemicals, and the cutting down of hundreds of trees so you can make a bit of cash , and leave the locals with your clean up bil.
        [Edited by moderator].

      • You saw? You visited the site, so you’re a local, or you’ve done some due diligence and come along to see for yourself?
        Or you saw a couple of photos in that bigoted rag of hate the Daily Fail?
        I live here. Now the tower is down you can’t tell anyone has been there, other than the security fence that has been erected.
        The tunnels and holes will fill in naturally over time, and the compostable toilets will, err, compost…

        You live on an empty pit. Well congratulations, it must be lovely going for evening walks. This drilling is in an area of outstanding natural beauty which is why there is so much resistance to it. It is just utterly unsuitable for any kind of industrialisation.

  4. I wonder if what the residents of the local area feel about their bus service being cancelled, about their homes being de-valued, about the possibility that a fire engine or ambulance might not be able to reach their homes, has literally ANY meaning to the people behind this unnecessary and unwanted project?

    Widening the roads here or modifying the infrastructure or landscape to cope with the traffic is a moot point. The real concern here is that we do not need to take this oil and gas out of the ground. We DO need to reduce our consumption and put effort into finding alternatives to fossil fuels.

  5. I would imagine that all of the replies above are left by people whom live on suburban or urban, residential streets. I ask each of them to consider what impact it would have on their day-to-day lives, on their health, on their state of mind, on the amenity value of their area, on their house price, on their safety, to have this traffic plan imposed on their street.
    I ask each of them to consider, that this plan could be imposed on their street with NO benefit to them. None whatsoever. As the only people that are in any way going to benefit from this project are a small number of people who most likely live nowhere near any oil or gas drilling sites. It’s just another example of a corrupt system that we have allowed to exist for too long! #keepitintheground

  6. Its funny, having frequented the site for the last 10 years and driven up Coldharbour Lane more times than I care to remember I’ve never had cause to be concerned about its state of repair – until now that is with the threat of > 1000 HGV movements destined to traverse a beautiful ancient lane. I’m a local by the way and I like it the way its – and you will be hard pressed to find a local who doesn’t share that view.

  7. I’m appalled that anyone can even begin to compare people camped out & tunnelling among the trees, to the devastating & PERMANENT damage that will be done by the industry & it’s sprawling infrastructure, for a boom & bust fossil fuel that won’t come on line for ten years, but will add massively to climate change & need THOUSANDS of wells…. Dear Me, how VERY shortsighted & greedy. Pity the countryside & our children & grand children. Fracking is insane on our TINY ISLAND & in the future EVERYONE will say this. Have a think about how you will tell your grandkids what YOU did to bring them a healthy future. 💚

    • It’s hardly “permanent” damage. There are hundreds of abandoned exploration wells onshore UK and you won’t find any evidence of them at the surface. The ones near where I live all have crops growing.

      • It’s described as ‘ancient woodland’ in an area of outstanding natural beauty. It’s not a field… Ancient gives away the fact that it won’t repair to its original state for a long, long time…

  8. Comments regarding improving the road show the complete lack of understanding. This is an ancient sunken road, single car width, long and climbing. Hundreads of sports cyclists can use this road in one day. It is the highest point in the surrey hills with road gradients up to 1/20. in woodlands of outstanding natural beauty, you can’t just cut a new road in there.

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