New application on Dunsfold drilling site creates “impossible challenge” for decision-makers, say villagers

190719 Dunsfold access route

Map of new proposed access route to UKOG’s oil and gas site. Source: planning application

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The community group, Protect Dunsfold, called today for all the proposals to be withdrawn after a second planning application for the site by UK Oil & Gas plc was published.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“The county council should advise that both applications are withdrawn and a new updated, accurate and unified application submitted which clearly explains what UKOG(234)Ltd [the licence operator] actually wants to do so it can be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.

Revised access

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.

20 replies »

  1. UK needs to be energy independent #UKOG are a very considerate operator with very little disturbance to the environment they have a no fracking policy. Some people seem to be involved in protests are law breakers and vigilante types that attach themselves to any cause. Logical thinking people can see the necessity of the vital resource to our nation and get behind the company not seek to tie it up in silly objections .It looks like ukog are try to satisfy the planning by offering alternative and logical solution’s. UK is at least 20 years away from being able to be carbon free and in the mean time will be held by super powers to ransom. Fuel shortage and damage to the economy is inevitable without an increase in exploration and utilization of our natural resource.we currently import 400/500 million barrels of oil per day oil is used in everything we use . I hope the people and community see the greater importance involved here and support the company.

    • John Penrose is mistaking anti-hydrocarbon campaigns and local objections on planning grounds. There is no evidence that UKOG are considerate – indeed the points made are that they are slapdash and ignorant of the specific local impacts of their proposals. Tweaking the road layout is trivial compared to their perfunctory dismissal of the wider impact of their 1/3 million tonnes of HGV loads in their proposals.

  2. Positively green, offering an alternative route, after discussion with locals. If only other planning matters received such considerate proposals from the applicants.

    • Positively green? Where is the evidence for that statement? Alternative routes? – yes a new route 500 yards across the field they are leasing, but their preferred routes are all using roads designated by Surrey Highways as unsuitable for HGVs, and over 40 miles before they even reach a trunk road.

      • How do you believe housing estates are built then GT?

        You only have to look around the country and there are thousands of building sites which require many HGV movements to construct them, along roads normally deemed unsuitable for HGVs. Once they are constructed same houses are usually inhabited by families routinely owning two vehicles, and cranking up their gas central heating in the winter (oil, if very rural.)

        Oh, and how do the HGV removal vehicles gain access?

        And how does the oil we import get to the UK? With difficulty regarding security of supply, serious risk of a maritime disaster and greater pollution of the environment compared to UK produced oil. Yep, positively green.

        • Martin Collyer. HGV movements of third million tonnes (just for exploration phase) is a little different to residential construction HGV movement. You seem to ignore the significant difference between HGV and domestic traffic. Oil imports are via the trunk road network.

          Positively green – that is a very weak justification.. sounds like you are in the UKOG PR department.

            • Judith – are you local to the site? It is not 3 million – 1/3rd of a million. The figures are from UKOG in their planning application. You can double that figure if you include the iGas well just along the road.

          • 10 two way lorry movements a day during construction phase. Absolutely no different to residential construction HGV lorry movement for a modest housing estate, which would take much longer to construct.

            No, oil imports are via the sea into Fawley refinery, and lorry transport from on shore UK sites apart from Wytch Farm which is via a pipeline.

            Positively green.

            Sounds like you either can not do maths. or live in a fantasy world-where UKOG have a PR department LOL.

      • GT I wouldn’t waste your time on Collyerwobble, he had the same ridiculous argument about the multiple routes Caudrilla proposed at Roseacre Wood. He was proved to be incorrect in his stance regarding the highways issues for that particular application in the end.

        [Edited by moderator]

          • MC No worries. I’ll judge you by your words. I’ll view someone who uses “positively green” as a way to describe an oil and gas company with circumspection.

            • Try a visit to Wytch Farm then GT. The largest European on shore oil field. Certainly positively green there, surrounded by SSIs and still maintaining some of the most expensive housing outside of London close by. Now, with output in decline, seems green to me to replace dwindling output there with a little more from the Weald, rather than import more from half way round the world with associated environmental risks, supply insecurity and no contribution to UK tax coffers. Pipeline for aviation fuel to Gatwick (being expanded) from Fawley. Positively green that increased volume of aviation fuel comes from local sources rather than thousands of miles away.

              With Fawley Refinery planning an £800 million expansion to increase output of diesel, much of which is currently processed elsewhere and imported into UK, a local source of oil to enable that, is:

              Yep, you guessed it:

              Positively green. And, of course, Fawley Refinery helps clean the Solent by putting water back cleaner than it took it out.

              Even greener, and helps the salmon run up to the Test and onwards up towards Stockbridge in one of the most pristine chalk rivers in the world past another on shore oil site. Mind you, the last I heard about pollution in the river was actually the R. Itchen and that was tracked to a salad washing factory!

              Negatively green.

              So, looks as if oil/gas can be positively green and vegans negatively green. Life is so complicated.


  3. It would seem that the more UKOG try to accommodate objections the more objections are raised. I do hope this is not an example of local Nimbyism standing in the way of the energy independence of this country.

  4. “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.” Err, the only statutory consultees who could be “unpaid” are the Parish Council. The decision making authority will be the County Council and the members of that will be paid, as will the officers.

    As for not knowing which application to look at the simple way is to consider each separately as a stand-alone application. A better headline would have been “Some people don’t understand the planning process!”

Add a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s