Opponents of oil exploration plans near Leith Hill in Surrey are taking part in a silent protest because they say their voices aren’t being heard on traffic arrangements.
The campaign group, a Voice for Leith Hill, says residents have been blocked from speaking at a meeting of Surrey County Council’s planning committee this morning.
Members of the group and other local campaigners are wearing gags across their mouths for the protest outside County Hall in Kingston.
The committee is to consider a traffic management plan for exploratory oil drilling by Europa Oil and Gas at Bury Hill Wood, near the Surrey beauty spot.
“Blocked from speaking at committee”
A Voice of Leith Hill said residents have been told that they can’t speak on the traffic management plan because they were allowed 15 minutes to address the committee at a previous meeting.
Julian Everett, from the group, said:
“We feel we’re being shut out of the democratic process as it nears its end.
“Once these permissions are in place Europa Oil and Gas will soon be bringing its massive trucks up the lane.
“We urge councillors to let us speak and hear our substantial objections. They should turn down this unworkable traffic plan, which will bring misery to local residents and cause damage to this fragile environment”.
The group said since the plan was last discussed substantial changes have been made including the number of lorry movements, loads of lorries, speed projections and the introduction of a Tree Preservation Order on the proposed lorry route in Coldharbour Lane.
Residents will still be allowed to speak on a separate application for security fencing at the site.
Green Party MEP, Keith Taylor, who opposes onshore oil and gas drilling, said:
“I want to send my solidarity to the dedicated campaigners and residents fighting to protect their community and the beauty and tranquillity of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”
“Coldharbour Lane is a stretch of the pre-Roman sunken lane with high tree-lined banks and a favourite route for cyclists currently signposted as unsuitable for HGVs.”
“I do not believe that the updated traffic management proposals are in any way adequate to protect its unique character. Sunken lanes are an important historic, social and ecological feature of our landscape which simply must be protected.”
Local groups have also complained to Mole Valley District Council about its failure to put Europa’s proposals on the published agenda of last week’s development control committee.
The traffic plan and the security fence were added to the agenda at 5.30pm when the meeting started at 7pm, even though paperwork for both had been available.
This meant members of the public were unaware of the discussion and did not attend to hear the debate, A Voice for Leith Hill said.
On Monday, DrillOrDrop asked Surrey County Council and Mole Valley District Council to respond to the complaints but neither responded. This post will be updated with any comment.
- DrillOrDrop will be reporting live from the committee discussion on the Leith Hill site and an application for more drilling and testing at Horse Hill near Horley.