A new year and a new public consultation is underway in the long-running attempt by Europa to explore for oil near Leith Hill in Surrey.
The company has published the 12th version of its traffic management plan (TMP) required to control lorry deliveries to the site at Bury Hill Wood.
The TMP is the final condition that must be met before exploration work can start at the site under planning consent granted in August 2105.
The deadline for comments to Surrey County Council on the latest TMP is 7 February 2018. (Link to documents SCC Ref 2017/0212)
Previous versions were submitted to the council last year in February, May, July and September.
Members of the council’s planning committee twice deferred a decision on the TMP because they wanted more information.
The latest version confirmed that Europa would use aluminium track, rather than crushed stone, to create hardstanding on the site and most of the access track. This would, the company said, reduce the number of deliveries of stone by heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) from 155 to 10. It would also reduce the use of a holding bay in Knoll Road, a residential street in Dorking.
The latest TMP also gave details of a holding area for HGVs at Cobham Service Station on the M25. The company has previously been refused permission to park lorries at Ryka’s Café on the A24.
In October 2017, councillors asked for confirmation that Cobham services would create a dedicated holding area. The TMP said 24-hour parking was permitted at a cost of £30. Despite heavy use there was always space for HGVs to park. It added:
“The parking facilities at the MSA [motorway service area] may be used provided there is compliance with the terms and conditions of their use, which relate mostly to the duration of the stay and any charges that might apply. Provided those terms and conditions are complied with the Management of the MSA will not bar vehicles using the motorway from using the facilities.”
Councillors and residents’ groups had called for a 3D survey of Coldharbour Lane, a narrow sunken lane which would be used by HGVs delivering to the Bury Hill Wood site. Europa said in the latest TMP that 3D surveys had been carried out in 2011 and updated to reflect work by the Forestry Commission in 2012. The company said further surveys of Coldharbour Lane were “not considered to be necessary”.
The TMP said no site HGVs would travel into Dorking or Leatherhead. There would be no effect on the traffic in these towns at any stage of the project it said, providing no HGVs left the service station before 9am or after 2.10pm to make a delivery to the site.
Councillors had also asked how staff would deal with lorries arriving at the site outside the permitted delivery hours of 9.30am-3pm. The TMP said banksmen would be on duty from 7am-6pm. It said:
“Control will therefore be maintained over HGV traffic, including early or late arrivals, and this will deter opportunistic deliveries out of hours.”
If HGVs missed the permitted delivery times because of traffic congestion or an accident, they would return to their depot or wait at the motorway services for the following day, the TMP said.
Coldharbour Lane between Knoll Road and the village of Coldhabour would be closed to through traffic during some HGV deliveries and collections. Residents had questioned whether Europa could rely on mobile phones to communicate with them. The company’s planning consultant told councillors in August a mobile phone provider has said it had coverage on Coldharbour Lane (DrillOrDrop report)
But the latest TMP said:
“Mobile phone usage will not be relied on but will be available as an alternative.
“Residents will have access to a central control room on fixed line or satellite phone which can be called from an fixed line or mobile during times of traffic movement.”
The TMP also gave details of predicted delays to traffic during deliveries. The document said these ranged from 30 seconds to seven minutes.
The earliest date this latest version of the TMP could be considered by the planning committee is 21 February 2018. Europa has appealed to the Planning Inspectorate over the failure of the council to reach a decision on version 11 of the TMP in October 2017 (DrillOrDrop report). The residents’ group, Leith Hill Action Group, is seeking a judicial review of the decision by Surrey County Council to approve a separate application for additional fencing, building and equipment at Bury Hill Wood (DrillOrDrop report)
Permit petition tops 90,000
A petition launched two months ago urging the Environment Agency to refuse environmental permits for the Bury Hill Wood site has reached more than 90,000 signatures.
The petition, on the 38 Degrees website, says the potential contamination risks of oil exploration at the site near Leith Hill are unacceptable.
Europa needs the permits (EPR/YP3735YK/A001, EPR/EB3594DF/A001 and EPR/YP3735YK/A001) before it can begin drilling.
The petition organisers said the surrounding countryside contains groundwater of public importance and the site is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Protest injunction extended
The High Court has extended an injunction against protesters at Europa’s Bury Hill Wood site, near Leith Hill in Dorking.
The order was served by the company this morning through social media. Papers can be viewed via a link on the Europa Oil and Gas Facebook page
This follows a hearing in London on Monday (8 Janary 2018) which confirmed that the injunction would continue for another nine months. The company made an application to the court on 22 December 2017 (DrillOrDrop report).
The expiry date, of 12 September 2018, coincides with the end of the lease on the site at Bury Hill Wood, held by Europa with the Forestry Commission.
The order applies to “persons unknown” who enter and remain on the site or access to it in connection with protests against petroleum exploration and extraction.
The court official, Chief Master Michael Marsh, confirmed that the injunction did not apply to land occupied by the current protest camp on the opposite side of Coldharbour Lane from the site.
Europa’s original injunction, granted in 2017, had been due to expire on 22 January. The company evicted a protest camp at the drilling site in June 2017.
Updated at 12.05 on 11 January 2018 with additional content about a petition against Europa’s permit applications.