Councillors in Surrey approved plans this afternoon for another two wells at the Horse Hill oil exploration site near Gatwick Airport.
The county council’s planning committee also approved proposals for extended flow testing at the existing and new wells.
The vote, of eight in favour and two abstentions, came after less than 40 minutes, with no discussion from councillors. DrillOrDrop report on the committee hearing.
The Horse Hill oil site made national headlines in 2016 when the operator, Horse Hill Developments Ltd, announced flow rates said to be equivalent to the North Sea. The site is exploring for oil in the Kimmeridge limestone and Portland formations.
The main investor in the Horse Hill well, UK Oil & Gas Investments plc, welcomed the decision. Its executive chairman, Stephen Sanderson, spoke at the committee meeting. This evening he said:
“This is welcome news for the planned Horse Hill Portland and Kimmeridge
appraisal programmes, both of which are key steps towards our goal of
delivering stable first oil production by early 2019.
“Horse Hill operations are scheduled to follow the current Broadford Bridge-1z flow testing and will build upon and benefit from the many learnings and insights gained to
date. I look forward to HHDL’s return to Horse Hill.”
Green Party politician
Keith Taylor, Green Party MEP for southern England, criticised the council for approving the planning application without discussion. He said this afternoon:
“Surrey County Council is made up of politicians elected to represent their communities and constituents. With that in mind, it is shameful that councillors have today waved through approval for 24-hour-a-day destructive drilling at Horse Hill without even so much as a discussion. It seems one of the first casualties of the Conservative government’s dash for unconventional fossil fuel extraction is democracy itself.
“Worryingly, despite there being no discussion between councillors, the decision to approve the proposals came shortly after UKOG made a presentation extolling the importance of exploiting fossil fuels – flying in the face of the overwhelming climate science consensus.
“Our legally-binding climate targets under both the Paris Agreement and the Climate Change Act – which the Government has already revealed the UK is set to miss – make it clear that the best chance we have of averting catastrophe is by keeping fossil fuel reserves in the ground.”