The head of Forest Enterprise in England has declined to meet Surrey residents and the local MEP to discuss concerns about oil drilling on the organisation’s land near Dorking.
Last month, Green Party MEP, Keith Taylor, invited the chair of Forest Enterprise England (FFE) to a meeting at Bury Hill Wood, where Europa Oil and Gas has permission to carry out exploratory drilling. Letter from Keith Taylor Forest Enterprise England (pdf)
But in a reply, released by Mr Taylor, the chief executive of Forest Enterprise England (FFE), Simon Hodgson, said:
“Given the land is open access you are most welcome to visit at any time, but I see no benefit in having a meeting on site or indeed elsewhere given that we are not considering any change in our approach to permitted oil and gas exploration activities”.
Many local people have opposed the use of FFE land for the Europa oil exploration scheme. They have campaigned against it through two public inquiries, two court cases and numerous planning meetings.
Mr Taylor said he had issued another invitation but FFE told DrillOrDrop today that Mr Hodgson has not changed his mind.
The meeting will go ahead tomorrow (Wednesday 17 July 2018) opposite the site on Coldharbour Lane, with an empty chair for Mr Hodgson.
If a representative of FFE does attend, there are plans for a round-table discussion on local concerns about oil exploration at the site.
Mr Taylor said:
“I find it extraordinary that a public body funded by taxpayers has flat refused to meet with those taxpayers and their elected representative.
“The organisation has completely failed to twig just how bad this looks. But if Simon Hodgson thinks he can put a stop to the meeting going ahead, he’s barking up the wrong tree.”
“People have the right to question why a public body with explicit environmental and climate change commitments continues to engage in a commercial partnership to allow climate-destructive drilling in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”
“Mr Hodgson might have refused to meet us, but we will make sure he gets the message loud and clear: the Forestry Commission getting into bed with the oil and gas industry is a dereliction of the organisation’s public duty.”
Julian Everett, from the campaign group, A Voice for Leith Hill, which has offered to take over the lease at the drill site, added:
“It’s shocking that so far the Forestry Commission, which is a public body, has ignored our requests to be considered to take over the lease at Leith Hill.
“Currently the site is closed to public access, despite being public access land, and earmarked for such a damaging use as oil drilling.
“A Voice for Leith Hill has pledged to fundraise and put the land to a beneficial use for the community and the environment. We urge the Forestry Commission to review its policy of being in bed with the oil and gas industry”.