Surrey County Council’s position that Angus Energy drilled its new Brockham oil well without planning permission has been supported by lawyers.
The council consulted a barrister in its dispute with Angus over the sidetrack well, drilled in January 2017.
Surrey said the well was not covered by the existing planning permissions for the site; Angus argued that it was.
According to correspondence from the council, seen by DrillOrDrop, a barrister acting for Surrey County Council confirmed the view of planning officers that the sidetrack was unauthorised.
The details of the legal opinion were confidential, according to the correspondence, but a council officer wrote that the tenor of the opinion was not. The officer said:
“We have Counsel’s Opinion which confirms the view of Officers that the sidetrack is unauthorised. We are proceeding on this basis with Angus.”
Angus Energy has strongly denied that it drilled without planning consent. In May 2017, the company told shareholders it had consulted its own QC. She had confirmed that the sidetrack, called BR-X4, was authorised by permission granted in 2006, the company said.
Discussions on retrospective application
DrillOrDrop also learned this week that discussions between the council and the company about a retrospective planning application for the sidetrack were “ongoing”.
We asked the council whether its position had changed on the sidetrack and whether there had been any discussions about a retrospective application.
The council’s spokesperson said:
“Our position remains the same in that we believe they should still have planning permission for side-well. Conversations regarding retrospective permission are still ongoing.”
DrillOrDrop invited Jonathan Tidswell-Pretorius, Angus Energy’s executive chairman, to comment on the council’s statement. This post will be updated with any response.
In May, Angus applied for retrospective permission for equipment and buildings on the Brockham pad at Feltons Farm, off Old School Lane. The public consultation on this application ended earlier this week. The next scheduled planning committees of Surrey County Council are on 13 September and 18 October 2017.
The company has also applied to the Environment Agency to vary its environmental permits at Brockham. The public consultation on this application has been extended until 7 September 2017.
The application seeks permission for venting from oil storage tanks, well workover operations, including hot oil and acid washes, and the reinjection of produced water from the Brockham and Lidsey well sites.
Application documents also give details of the drilling history of the site (see DrillOrDrop’s updated timeline for Brockham)