Breaking: Residents claim victory in challenge over Europa’s fencing plans at Leith Hill oil site


Leith Hill eviction 170621 Danny Vc Llew1

Temporary fencing at Europa’s Bury Hill Wood near Leith Hill. Photo: Danny Vc Llew

A residents’ group claimed victory tonight in its legal challenge over security fencing at Europa’s oil site near Leith Hill in Surrey – before the case even got to court.

Leith Hill Action Group had sought a judicial review against the approval by Surrey County Council of Europa’s application for fencing and additional buildings at Bury Hill Wood.

Tonight the group said in a newsletter to supporters:

“We have enormous news about the judicial review of the permission for security fencing. We have won!”

The group had been raising money to pay for a court hearing at which it would make its case against the council.

But the newsletter said:

“Surrey County Council have had to throw in the towel and admit we were right.”

Leith Hill Action Group (LHAG) said the council had signed a consent order. The court will quash the decision made in October 2017 to approve Europa’s application. LHAG said the county council had paid back all the group’s costs.

The council’s move means Europa no longer has permission to erect the fencing and buildings for security purposes or to enlarge the site beyond what was approved in 2015, LHAG said.

This is the latest setback for the Bury Hill Wood site, which has been through seven years of planning disputes and is still waiting for the approval of a traffic management plan (See today’s DrillOrDrop report).

“Inappropriate development”

The case centred on whether Europa should have been allowed – as it did- to apply for extra fencing and buildings as a separate stand-alone planning application.

The original consent for oil exploration at the site included a condition which said there should be no additional fences or buildings.

But Europa claimed that the fencing and buildings in the separate application was for mineral extraction. Under Green Belt planning rules, a few types of development, including oil and gas working, are allowed. By tying the fencing to oil exploration, the fencing could be considered as not necessarily inappropriate.

To avoid being considered inappropriate, developments allowed in the Green Belt, such as mineral extraction, have to maintain openness. Surrey County Council officers, in a report to the October 2017 planning committee, said there would be “some harm to the openness of the Green Belt”. But the report concluded (p103):

“The long term characteristics and purposes of the Green Belt would not be materially compromised such to make the development proposal inappropriate development.”

Officers recommended the application be approved and councillors voted by seven in favour and two against (DrillOrDrop report)


LHAG challenged the officers’ arguments in its request for a judicial review.

The group explained:

“We said that a standalone application for a fence is not “mineral extraction” and therefore it is inappropriate development.

“We furthermore said that if Surrey County Council agree there is “harm to openness” it must be inappropriate development regardless of whether or not the development is for “mineral extraction”.

LHAG said the council had agreed that since there would be harm, the development must be inappropriate.

If Europa wanted the extra security fencing and buildings it would now have to apply on proper grounds, LHAG said.

The group added:

“Although it is fantastic to win, we are sorry that it has taken the threat of a Judicial Review to get Surrey County Council to properly review the legal basis for its planning decision on this part of such a controversial development.

“We tried so many times to engage with the council but, early this year, Surrey’s planning officers simply stopped discussing this or any other issue with us on any kind of meaningful basis.

“Our letters of communication simply vanished into a bureaucratic abyss.”

LHAG said it had raised £19,000 to fight the judicial review. It said this would now be used to contest Europa’s traffic management plan for the Bury Hill Wood site.

Surrey County Council responded on 19 January 2018 to DrillOrDrop’s invitation to respond to LHAG’s arguments. A council spokesperson said:

“We made a decision which we believed to comply with national guidelines – this is now with the court and as planning matters have to follow the due process, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.”

18 replies »

  1. I guess it’s time to take down the fences and cabins , oh dear Europa and chums are not having a great start to the year what with the Wressle refusal , they say that was worth £4million a year to them and the farm out of 10% will be on hold. How much longer can Europa keep afloat with no income and investors leaving like rats from the Titanic ? , UKOG have bought 40% of a non starter , ah well , no pun intended.

    • Jono, Typical nimbyism comment, backed up with misinformation:”How much longer can Europa keep afloat with no income”.

      Perhaps you should do some research before posting incorrect facts. Europa already produce approx. 100 bopd from their existing production fields. Revenues from the 100bopd with todays OP result in an annual turnover of cira £1.8 million.

      Break-even for Europa is an OP of $50. OP is currently trading at $69.

  2. Richard , when you are surrounded by this dirty industry there is no nimbyism , maybe look at Europa accounts to see how they are financially , 100 bopd wont go far towards paying the wages and the £ 1.8 million is peanuts . Why else would they be cutting corners ? No a fence lol

  3. Just a repeat of the “financial” nonsense Richard, that was trotted out about UKOG a few weeks ago. I suppose there is a slight chance that one day, it may even be proven correct so the old story is simply repeated time after time. Bit like some of the media predicting an “arctic winter” every year around September.

    Needs that sort of false hope to mobilise some, it seems.

  4. Europa current assets £1.5 million net worth – minus £13.5 million , cash £ 728 k , liabilities £745 k , seems to back my story ?

  5. Jono, try again.

    a. Net cash balance of £3.6 million.
    b. Group revenue £1.6 million (113bopd at average OP of $48) Note: OP now trading at $69.
    c. Administrative expenses of £553,000.

    Click to access EuropaARcolourfinal.pdf

    You made the below two statements:

    “How much longer can Europa keep afloat with no income”
    “100 bopd wont go far towards paying the wages”

    Please back up with these statements with facts, otherwise people that read these boards might actually believe you.

    I look forward to your reply…..

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