Europa to challenge council over Leith Hill oil site – company accused of not talking to residents

Leith Hill eviction 170621 Dan Harvey 5

Site vehicle on Coldharbour Lane. Photo: Dan Harvey

Europa Oil & Gas announced this morning it was taking action against Surrey County Council over final approval of its exploration plans near Leith Hill.

The company is waiting for the council’s agreement on arrangements for lorry deliveries to the oil drilling site at Bury Hill Wood near Dorking.

Surrey County Council’s planning committee has twice deferred a decision on the traffic management plan, a condition of permission granted in August 2015. At the most recent meeting last month, councillors required the company to provide more information and to talk to local people affected. (DrillOrDrop live updates)

The planning committee chairman, Tim Hall, said Europa had failed to communicate with residents or consider their concerns. He said residents felt the plan was being done to them, rather than with them.

“Better opportunity for success”

This morning Europa issued a statement to investors saying it was appealing against the council’s failure to approve the traffic management plan.

hugh-mackayChief Executive, Hugh Mackay, told DrillOrDrop:

“It has taken a considerable period of time so far. It has been deferred twice. So we have decided to appeal for non-determination and at the same time we will resubmit the traffic management plan which will go back to the planning committee.

“We feel we will have a better opportunity for a successful outcome if we take this twin approach.”

The company said in its statement it would “undertake additional consultations with Parish Councils and residents of Coldharbour Lane to provide further information regarding the Traffic Management.”

Consultation promise “too late and too limited”


Coldharbour Lane near the Bury Hill Wood site. Photo: DrillOrDrop

The proposed route for heavy goods vehicles to Bury Hill Wood has prompted multiple objections from local people. It includes Coldharbour Lane, sections of which are steep, narrow, winding and surrounded by ancient banks, as well as residential streets on the edge of Dorking.

Residents reacted angrily to Europa’s statement today. Lucy Barford, of the campaign group, A Voice For Leith Hill, said:

“This promise of consultation is too late as it’s unclear how it can change the plans at this point and it’s too limited as many more local residents are affected by this [than on Coldharbour Lane].”

A Voice for Leith Hilll released early results of a survey of people who it said would be affected by traffic to the Bury Hill Wood site.

The group said:

“In the 10 years since Europa first came up with the plans it has never consulted residents directly affected by the passing of heavy lorries on the proposed route. It did not happen before applying for planning permission, or at any stage since to date.

“So far no resident has been identified who has been directly consulted by Europa. Many residents feel very strongly about the lack of consultation.”

A Voice for Leith Hill said it had surveyed 45 homes so far, asking ‘Do you feel confident that the steps that Europa Oil and Gas have taken to engage the community will minimise disruption to the community?’ According to the group, no one had yet said ‘Yes‘.

Lucy Barford said:

“Since the criticism at the planning meeting volunteers have spent hours trudging the streets knocking on doors of residents affected in Flint Hill and Knoll Road and we haven’t even got onto everyone affected yet.

“They face hundreds of lorry movements in 18 weeks right past their doors. It’s totally unacceptable that everyone directly affected hasn’t been asked for their views sooner than this”.

A Voice for Leith Hill said concerns raised so far included:

  • Vibration to houses from lorries
  • Calls for compensation for structural damage and a baseline study
  • Monitoring and compensation for damage to road surfaces
  • Risk to pedestrians in Flint Hill
  • Exacerbation of already-bad traffic congestion
  • Impacts on local businesses
  • Risk to elderly people and children
  • Warnings about sink holes in Knoll Road

The group said it planned to continue the survey and would submit final results to Europa, Surrey County Council and Mole Valley District Council.

“Bypass local democracy”


Keith Taylor MEP during a visit to a camp at the Bury Hill Wood site. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Keith Taylor, the Green Party’s MEP for south east England, joined the criticism of Europa today. He said in a statement:

“It says so much about the company’s contempt for local people that after being criticised by Surrey County Council for failing to engage with the community Europa has decided to try and bypass local democracy altogether and appeal directly to the Planning Inspectorate.

“Europa’s Traffic Management Plan is entirely inadequate, and Surrey County Council told the firm as much. 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.

“Sunken lanes are an important historic, social and ecological feature of our landscape which simply must be protected.”

Drilling target remains 2018

Hugh Mackay told DrillOrDrop that Europa planned to drill the exploration well at Bury Hill Wood in the first half of 2018. The company still has to secure a traffic order for part of the lorry route.

The Environment Agency is also still considering Europa’s environmental permit application but Mr Mackay said an announcement on this was expected soon.

The next planning committee meeting of Surrey County Council when the construction traffic management could be considered is 13 December 2017. Link to agenda. DrillOrDrop invited Surrey County Council to comment on Europa’s statement. This report will be updated with any response.

19 replies »

  1. So, ‘councillors required the company to provide more information and to talk to local people affected.’ This is called democracy.

    But, Europa won’t do this…I wonder why?
    Instead want to appeal against the council because it is not being done their way.
    What does this show you about the attitude of this company?
    Are they also so afraid of their investors that the management cannot make decisions themselves?

    What a world we live in…….

    • This is what we are seeing from all the operators now, gross arrogance and contempt towards local people and the county councils.

      Europa have run true to form it seems, the access and TMO were always the Achilles heel of this insane choice of location and should never have been even remotely considered let alone allowed to start.

      Europa’s abject failure to comply with their planning requirements has proved they have no business there or anywhere else.

      Does anyone seriously imagine all the operators are and will act like anything other than little tin pot dictators in any other location?

      These operators are only going to get worse and turn even more arrogant if Ineos get their injunction.

  2. I think the fact will be that the Voice of Leith Hill is not the decision maker here. The planning decision has to show it has gone through the correct procedure and voices shouting in the background don’t dictate that process.

  3. UK Onshore O&G firms will take a firmer stance with councils going fwd. We have become tired of weak councillors that are manipulated by a vocal minority.

        • Hello peeny, well, well, or not very well, well, if you see what i mean.

          Hey, that ID is a blast from the past? Takes me back to the good old days? Still in USA?

          So nice that you read my posts?

          Hardly likely to be the same “we” is it? We tend to be real people in UK, but hey, what is a small “we” between friends?

          “We” use the “royal “we” here, that being an English thing, it doesn’t translate to Trumpish very well, just think of an older German Ivanka in a tower with real trumpets?

          Such fun! Have a great day peeny.

          • Here is the latest Ian R Crane video announcing the Ineos injunction decision tomorrow, this is probably the most far reaching announcement we will see in the UK since Eden waved a piece of paper on the 3rd September 1939 and will decide what happens to this supposedly democratic country for the foreseeable future.

  4. As in We (overlords) know what we’re doing and have complete control. We know what is best for the country (and our own bank accounts) and We do not suffer from delusions of entitlement. 🙂

  5. Why not replant the beautifull monumental trees. Cost only 1500 per tree.
    Second, improve the road so Europe can spud.

  6. Still behind target on your wind turbine sales, PhilipP? Perhaps Barclays (not the Bruvers) could help you out.

    • Is this your new diversion/attack tactic ‘behind target on your wind turbine sales’ (noticed it on a few comments from you lately)…..concentrate Martin, this discussion is about Europa and Surrey County Council.

    • I’m not a salesman Martin. Are you referring to Dong’s operating profit being one fifth less than expected for the first quarter? at £375 million. To quote “Dong Energy’s retreat from the oil industry has paid off with a three-fold profit boom powered by the UK’s spinning wind turbines… The switch appears to be working, with Dong reporting a 200pc boom in pre-tax profits to DKK2.8bn (£340m) in the last three months from DKK830m in the same quarter last year. The profit surge came alongside higher than expected forecasts for its annual earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, which could now hit up to DKK19bn.” (Source – Telegraph Business)

      There’s been the Burbank expansion for Dong and now the world’s first floating wind farm, for a different company, that has just been opened offshore from Aberdeenshire:

      Let’s see. How’s onshore shale gas profits looking to date?

  7. The discussion was about “our own bank accounts” Sherwulfe. The sort of interjection, along with anti police, that has become essential to keep the anti capitalists and anarchists excited within the anti fold, as more moderates were losing interest.
    I suspect there might be one or two antis with bank accounts, who could just as easily have them motivating their posts. Someone seems to be following the profitability of certain alternative energy companies-perhaps alternative motives?

    PhilipP forgets to mention who purchased Dong’s oil interests and how their profits are doing! Not supposed to know that?

    • So the crux here is:
      Invest your money in dead assets the value of which is manipulated out of context to remove pensioners ‘pots’ released from a tax boost strategy by Osbourne et al,
      Invest your money/time in real futures, ethical companies and clean energy projects?

      Whatever ‘world’ you make up Martin, if these are the choices, then educated, informed individuals will always choose the latter.

      So, back to post content and question to raise.
      Should Europa comply with the request by the Councillors ‘to provide more information and to talk to local people affected’ or should they ignore the Councillors and by default the people of Surrey and try and bully their way in?

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