Residents in the Surrey village of Dunsfold have described plans for a proposed oil and gas site as “confused and muddled”.
The community group, Protect Dunsfold, called today for all the proposals to be withdrawn after a second planning application for the site by UK Oil & Gas plc was published.
The first application for two oil and gas wells, published in June 2019, included an access track off High Loxley Road.
The second application, which went online yesterday, is for an alternative access off Dunsfold Road.
This new application adds 32 documents to the 88 in the first application. Some of the documents are new; others are revised versions.
A spokesperson for Protect Dunsfold said:
“The original application, and this new one, represent an impossible challenge for the decision-making authority and statutory consultees, many of whom are unpaid volunteers.
“They are now charged with the responsibility of guessing which of the overlapping reports to consider and all of the possible outcomes and implications from these two muddled applications. With all parties making comments on some individually-created synthesis there is no certainty that comments and decisions are being made about the same thing.”
The original application was criticised for mistakes and inconsistencies. There were two different maps of the access track and one paragraph in the executive summary appeared to refer to a different site. Within a week, UKOG issued a clarification statement about one policy argument it used to support the application.
The second application includes speed survey data that was available at the time of the first application but was not referred to in the original transport statement. The new application appears to have dropped proposals for a temporary 30mph limit on Dunsfold Road that were in the first application.
The spokesperson for Protect Dunsfold said:
“It has long been our view since the day after the initial application was published, and Dunsfold Parish Council now agrees, that there are so many careless errors in the original application, and now this one, that Surrey County Council should advise UKOG that both applications will be rejected.
“The county council should advise that both applications are withdrawn and a new updated, accurate and unified application submitted which clearly explains what UKOG(234)Ltd [the licence operator] actually wants to do so it can be considered on its merits.
“This situation is now so confused that the only possible way forward is a full environmental Impact analysis which reconciles all of the various reports and data produced thus far by UKOG, together with any more data they have not yet disclosed.
“There would then be an authoritative view on the environmental impact of a unified proposal which all consultees can consider in a new, coherent, application.”
UKOG told DrillOrDrop
“We had lots of feedback from our public event [about the proposals] at Dunsfold Village Hall and a key one concerned our original access route.
“We were asked to pursue an alternative access off Dunsfold Road and this is the subject of the fresh application.”
But this statement did not satisfy Protect Dunsfold. It said:
“In truth it is quite clear from the careless inconsistencies in the initial application that this access was UKOG’s original plan, which they changed part way through their development of their application presumably because they found impediments to this access that were fatal to their case.
“By now attempting to characterise this as ‘in response to local consultation’ they are seeking to imply there is a degree of local support for their overall plan and objections are only to the access proposal, claiming a “responsiveness to local opinion” which might trump the original impediments.”
The group called on Surrey County Council to reject the first application for reasons including unsafe access. The second application should then be rejected, it said, because it was redundant – attempting to access a wellsite that did not exist.
The second application is for three years and seeks consent for construction, operation and restoration of a highway junction with boundary fencing, entrance gates and a 400m access track.
The junction would be secured by 2.5m high close-boarded timber panel gates, set back from Dunsfold Road, the application said.
2.5m security fencing would enclose a section of track wide enough for two heavy commercial vehicles to pass. The track would then reduce to 4.1m wide and be enclosed by stock-proof fencing.
An overhead electricity cable would be buried where it crossed the proposed route.
According to the application, the work on the junction and access track would take four weeks, using 12 construction staff and 3-6 security officers. Proposed working and delivery hours were 7am-7pm Monday-Friday and 9am-1pm on Saturday.
The application predicted 10 two-way lorry movements a day during construction. The scheme would not “have a detrimental impact” on traffic or the highway network, it said.
Required visibility splays at the junction of the track and Dunsfold Road could be achieved if trees at the access were removed, the application added. All proposed vehicle movements could be achieved within the existing roads and proposed changes.
UKOG said of the scheme:
“It represents precisely the kind of investment required if the UK is to make the ‘best use’ of its mineral resources, reduce the vulnerability of being a net-importer of energy and deliver sustainable growth. In a society where the well-being of all is the ultimate objective, such private sector support for the wider public good is acknowledged and encouraged by national energy and planning policy.”
UKOG said these benefits were enough to outweigh what it described as “minor harm” from construction and disturbance.
According to the application, nine trees and an 11m section of hedgerow would have to be removed to make way for the proposed access.
A report submitted with the application said the land that would be crossed by the access was the source of several Mesolithic flint tools. Because of this, it has been designated an area of high archaeological potential and county site of archaeological importance.
The area crossed by the access is also likely to be used by skylark and lapwing during the breeding season, the application said. Breeding birds may be present in the trees and hedgerows.
The hedges and treeline near the access provide good-quality foraging and commuting habitat for bats. A survey for UKOG found common lizard and grass snake in the area south of Dunsfold Road and it had been designated of local nature conservation value to reptiles. The area of the access route could also be colonised by badgers, the application said.
Despite these finds, consultants for UKOG concluded that the access road would have no adverse or significant effects on reptiles, bats or birds and the effects on archaeology could be made acceptable.
The decision date for both Dunsfold applications is currently set for 11 September 2019. UKOG’s proposal for extra wells and long-term oil production at its other site in Surrey, at Horse Hill, is also currently due to be decided on this date .
- The Dunsfold scheme is to be discussed at a listening panel, organised for the first time by Waverley Borough Council, a statutory consultee on the applications. Residents and organisations are invited to give their views at a public session on Tuesday 23 July 2019 from 6pm-9pm. The sessions will be webcast. DrillOrDrop will report on the event.