Councillors oppose two oil applications in Surrey’s greenbelt


Brockham night working Brockham Protection Camp

Night working at Brockham oil site. Photo: Brockham Protection Camp

Councillors have objected to planning applications at oil sites near Leith Hill and at Brockham in Surrey.

By the end of a marathon meeting last night, Mole Valley’s planning committee voted against both schemes, each time against the advice of officers.

The committee is a statutory consultee on the applications. The final decisions will be made by Surrey County Council.

“Inappropriate development”

Leith HIll eviction 170622 Rob Harbinson1

Eviction of protesters at Bury Hill Wood, 22 June 2017. Photo: Rob Harbinson

The scheme near Leith Hill is part of a long-running planning dispute over the Bury Hill Wood oil exploration site.

The latest application by Europa Oil and Gas is for security and deer fencing, lighting, a canteen and welfare facilities, water and oil tanks and a generator.

The county council had previously approved the application but it was successfully challenged at the High Court by Leith Hill Action Group and is now being considered again.

The campaign group’s case included many arguments raised by councillors last night.

Planning approval for oil exploration at the site was granted in 2015 by a planning inspector on condition that there should be no additional fencing or buildings and no lighting.

Europa said the fencing and other buildings were now needed because it had to employ 24-hour security to protect the site from protesters. This hadn’t been necessary when the exploration application was made, it said.

The company said the fencing scheme was a stand-alone application for the purpose of mineral extraction. This allowed it to use planning law to argue that it was not necessarily inappropriate development in the greenbelt.

Surrey County Council conceded that there would be limited harm to openness of the greenbelt but it agreed with the company that the scheme was not inappropriate.

Leith Hill Action Group argued successfully that if there was harm to openness it must be inappropriate, regardless of whether it was for mineral extraction.

Mole Valley councillors also argued last night that the fencing proposal breached the original permission conditions by increasing the size of the application site by a quarter.

They said it would have an unacceptable impact on visual amenity in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. They also questioned the need for the application and said the cumulative effect should be considered.

There were additional concerns about highway safety because the fencing was expected to be installed on the edge of a narrow, steep and winding road.

Cllr Margaret Cooksey, the vice chair of the Mole Valley planning committee said

“We should send a message to the county council.

“I support people’s right to peacefully protest. The protesters in this case may well be doing it for all the right reasons.”

She described the proposals as “a blot on the landscape”.

“We can’t allow this sort of thing in the greenbelt on the basis that there are protesters.”

Cllr Clayton Wellman said Europa would have been aware of the protests against Cuadrilla’s oil drilling at Balcombe, which, in 2013, happened before the exploration application went before the inspector.

He also said the proposed generator was likely to breach the night time noise conditions.

“We must object because it makes mockery of conditions in the appeal decision.

“This is to get round the inspector’s conditions. We shouldn’t allow it”.

The application is expected to be discussed by the county council on 23 May 2018.

Questions over appraisal scheme

180221 Brockham Weald Oil Watch

Brockham oil site, 22 February 2018. Weald Oil Watch

The other application is by Angus Energy for its site at Brockham, near Dorking.

The company is seeking retrospective approval for a sidetrack well, drilled in January 2017.

The county council said there was no planning permission for the work but Angus has consistently disagreed.

Mole Valley councillors questioned whether this was an appraisal application because Angus had told investors it expected to produce oil from the sidetrack this year.

The councillors said the three-year duration asked for in the application was unnecessary and should be reduced to 18 months.

They also called for close monitoring of the site to ensure “there were no deviations” from any permission.

Cllr Tim Loretto said a lot of people locally and further afield were “very upset” by Angus’s operation at Brockham.

The committee said the flare to be installed on the site should be tested and monitored for emissions and Angus should provide evidence of a risk assessment.

DrillOrDrop understands this application is expected to be considered in June. A county council spokesperson told us:

“The County Planning Authority has a statutory duty to determine planning applications.  The planning application (ref: MO/2018/0444) for the retention of the BRX4 well, the regularisation of the BRX4Z sidetrack, and the appraisal of BRX4Z using production plant and equipment within the existing site, for a temporary period of three years (part retrospective), is currently scheduled to go Planning and Regulatory committee on the 20 June 2018.”

“No social licence”

The Green Party MEP, Keith Taylor, whose south east England constituency includes both sites said today:

“I’m pleased to see councillors have made the common sense decision to side with their communities and our environment. Neither Angus or Europa have a social licence to drill at Leith Hill or Brockham and the latest applications submitted were as unsound as they are unpopular.”

He said the Leith Hill fencing application was “a significant and unacceptable intrusion into a tranquil and beautiful area”.

On the Brockham application, Mr Taylor said:

“The length of the operations proposed would have a potentially significant impact over a long period of time and are not consistent with a plan for an exploratory drill.


36 replies »

  1. Our air and drinking water are safe.. for now at least. Turning this spot into an oil site would be utter madness in every way imaginable.

    • Excellent news for Leith Hill and Brockham, and congratulations to the councils for standing with your residents.
      Common sense and reason prevail.

      • News for the benefit of the local community, NOT the whole country. If application refusals were in the north the Surrey nimbys would soon be complaining about northerners lack of national interest . They are nimbys who want the oil, which the country needs, to be brought in from a poorly regulated 3rd world country. IF there was no fuel for their petrol guzzling 4 x 4s, or for their foreign holidays, they would be up in arms. Close down all the petrol stations in Surrey, ban all forms of transport that uses oil in any form, (i.e no oil for bicycle wheels), then await the protests. Surrey Council speaks with fork tongue.

        • Please research what tight oil is (AKA unconventional oil and gas), find out about the processes needed to extract it. The Kimmeridge formation isn’t a conventional deposit. Given that we only have the carbon overhead to burn 20% of the hydrocarbons ALREADY identified, be don’t need to be prospecting for new ones, especially for unconventional ones which are exponentially more damaging to the local environment and leak more greenhouse gases so accelerating climate change. The Brockham well WAS conventional but the new illegal sidetrack targets the Kimmeridge as does Leith Hill. For more information on the health issues associated with acidisation/ fracking look here;
          It’s a horror show but will be worst in the UK since it’s much more heavily faulted. Look at esp David Smythes talk and judge for yourself.

          And thanks for reading!

      • Which remark? About the Brockham oil well or the proposed well test drill on Leith Hill?

  2. I am against oil in general. I would rather use sustainable sources of energy! But for now, Oil in the North Sea is running out and we need to get the oil somewhere, especially if we want the UK to be at least somewhat independent! I don’t live near the greenbelt but we need the oil!

    • Please see my comment above, there is no shortage of conventional oil, it’s important to understand the difference and to put a value on drinking water. The proposal is to drill through a principle aquifer that will be ruined, it’s only a question of time. Please do your research, A Voice for Leith Hill is a good resource. There might be a day or two’s worth of oil down there but is it worth it?

  3. Re. Leith Hill site extension, superb late effort by sleep deprived Councillors who showed great stamina coming as it did in the midst of election campaigning and with very little time to prepare. I was proud to be there to watch it. It was good to hear Councillor Cooksey supporting the Leith Hill Protection Camp and Councillor Wellman exposing this application for a significantly larger site for what it is, an attempt to ‘game’ the planning process by applying for a site small enough not to be considered a “major development in this Green Belt/ AONB, then claiming everything’s different now so they need it to be larger. The councillors couldn’t understand how this application is being re-submitted unaltered after the High Court threw it out in November. I suspect it’s yet another Europa cock-up like the appeal against the non-determination of the TMP which they had to withdraw to avoid embarrassment. What a farce.

  4. If Pro.David Smythe, who retired in the last century, and who has been abandoned by his Uni. is the best support the nimbys can claim, then I feel there is little point in arguing about the merits of energy self-sufficiency. He is the equivalent of my transistor radio, actually not quite, my radio is still working and can provide me with up to the minute news.

    • Absolute nonsense.

      In point of fact the University of Glasgow have explicitly confirmed that they endorse him. He retains his emeritus title there and has full access to the University research database. After the Department of Geophysics there closed he continued to work, but as a consultant to the conventional oil industry, between 2002-2011, assessing potential drill sites a field in which he is uniquely experienced because of his role as Principle Scientific Officer at the BGS where he led a team of seismic interpreters from 1973 to 1987 doing the early research on the North Sea oil fields and becoming the UK’s leading expert on the subject.

      So don’t come on here and try to dismiss his relevance, unless you want to state what your superior qualifications are and want to engage with his findings. You might start by actually reading his report on the Leith Hill site;

      • what that would require them pulling their heads out of the sand & looking at the bigger picture. Oil is the lifeblood of our economy & will continue to be for decades to come as renewable s are still no substitute maybe in another 50-100 years but not in out lifetime

        • It would require a full frontal lobotomy to to get sane minded people to stop looking at the bigger picture, and only see our future economy in terms of oil and gas.

        • Isn’t it the fracking industry that puts its head in the sand? Quite literally?

          The Ostrich putting it’s head in the sand is a myth, but the fracking industry does it all the time as a matter of operational necessity?

          Figures doesn’t it?

      • “UK’s leading expert on the subject”. I hope even David Smythe would not put himself above Ken Glennie.

    • Al, I abbreviated what he wrote in his EA report, please do read the report which I linked to for the proper context but what he actually wrote was that he “became the UK’s leading expert on the deep geology of the continental margin west of the British Isles.”

      • For him to claim to be that is even worse. He seriously thinks he was better than Dave G Roberts ??

        • What is this, Al’s Geophysicist Top Trumps? I’m far more interested to hear your point by point rebuttal of his EA submission, or do you always play the man not the ball?

          • Glennie and Roberts were both geologists, not geophysicists. There’s no need for a point by point rebuttal as with a limited dataset you can easily generate different plausible interpretations. What Smythe ignores is the concept of risk.

  5. Well, for those who think there is plenty of oil around perhaps this Bank Holiday take a trip down to Fawley and watch the tankers plying their trade up the Solent, bringing the lovely stuff from far and wide. Then remember there are an average 120 ships per year worldwide that sink! Not little rowing boats, but ships up to 250k tonnes, and including oil tankers.

    Funny how the antis who moan about plastic in the oceans are not concerned about just about everything else in the oceans, including oil!

    • Check out the Con’s new master plan, Martin and you will know why these tankers are arriving.

  6. what that would require them pulling their heads out of the sand & looking at the bigger picture. Oil is the lifeblood of our economy & will continue to be for decades to come as renewable s are still no substitute maybe in another 50-100 years but not in out lifetime

    • Hmmm Repetition!

      Do try to talk for one minute without hesitation deviation or repetition gasman? Loss of one point and subject over to me for Just a Minute!

      oil is not the lifeblood of anything, since life requires clean water, unpolluted air, edible food, oxygen, nitrogen and trace elements, fossil fuels provide none of those, such extracted materials are mere temporary measures until we can come up with better ways of producing energy.

      One minute! I win!

    • It would require a full frontal lobotomy to to get sane minded people to stop looking at the bigger picture, and only see our future economy in terms of oil and gas.
      (I can copy and paste too!).

  7. I’ve fed enough [edited by moderator] 🤑 on this thread, have a very good evening. 😁

      • Exactly Phil, unrewarding.

        Apologies to the moderator for my previous use of the t word.

        I still believe no reasonable person would want these forms of extreme extraction if they were in full possession of the facts and understood the wider context e.g. COP21.

        Those that won’t engage with empirical evidence, and studies by the most highly qualified experts, are perhaps unfortunate enough to have put their savings into one of the (too good to be true?) penny share oil companies and can’t face up to the truth that they backed a lame horse. I can sympathise to an extent but ultimately this pursuit of profit with no regard to the health and wellbeing of other people or to the environment is an extremely unattractive trait.

        • Perhaps they will sue us for loss of profits Dorkinian? Well i have some spare change in my piggy bank? I expect it wont be more than about £2.50 after quantitive easing?

          Yes, perhaps the stumbling block is “no reasonable person”? I’ve been posting here on Drill or Drop for what? Four years or more now? There was a time when we could have a reasonable discussion, with the usual wild additions of course, you can never escape those, but now it is difficult to have a rational discussion without these personality targetted tirades?

          If i were to attribute this to an intelligent strategy, then i would say its a genuine attempt to stifle anything rational or any attempt to meet in the middle by descending into personal attacks and comments to divert away from the possibility of anything actually becoming agreed between proponents of either side?

          The opposite view is that the personal comments are really the only thing left for some to say? I really cant believe that, so i do at least treat such things with the view that it is a genuine concerted and organised strategy by those whose interests are in divide and conquer, in order to stifle debate and always keep everyone at each others throats? if we look at the social media everywhere that divide and conquer, you used the (t) word, seems to be happening on every forum in every web site and particularly on this subject.

          You then have to ask why? And who it is that benefits most from diverting the entire discussion away from any rational debate on genuinely important subjects? Certainly not anyone who wants to see this present fracking threat episode resolved in a rational logical way that pleases and suits everyone?

          I think that, is the right question?

          what do you think Dorkinian?

          • I think I agree Phil.

            Are you saying that if this is an intelligent strategy then they are bright enough to understand the dire consequences of backing unconventional extraction but logically they must have sociopathic tendencies? Is that about right? And if not in this Machiavellian category, well then they just haven’t got ‘the full bucket’?

            Either way the future is renewables and we should start planning and investing in it now.


            • Essentially yes Dorkinian, the renewable resources are a threat to the fracking industry and the oiligarchies as a whole. Because once those are implemented we will see how deep a trap the present oligarchy monopoly of energy sources really is.

              So the chosen strategy of choice is to attempt to rubbish the very concept at every opportunity. Look here above and you will see just that.

              But as you say, rather than engage on that to use logic, science, reason and debate, we notice that the mere mention of renewables results in the descent into personalisation of issues and worse.

              That is a safer way of diverting away from the subject, since it attempts to engage the writers ego and there be legions of dragons down in those demonic regions. Simple strategy, nothing more.

              As you say, it is at the very least sociopathic Machiavellian manipulation strategies, at worst it is deliberate social manipulation and attempted diversion and defusing of real issues and subjective reprograming to prevent the logical conclusion that renewables are the only intelligent way ahead.

              All else is proven to be self destructive insanity and is nothing more than gross monopolistic protectionism?

              I was trained in management negotiation techniques, NLP and use of strategies to undermine the opposition and divide and conquer issues and proposers, so I recognise it when it’s being used here.

              I rejected it because it was a travesty of communication and seeks to overturn common sense.

              I find plain speaking honesty is far superior and defuses and disables such strategies.

              [Typo corrected by moderator]

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