Legal challenge to fight Horse Hill oil production


Campaigners are seeking to go to court over this month’s planning consent for oil production at Horse Hill in Surrey.

The Weald Action Group said it would be challenging Surrey County Council’s decision to approve 20 years of production and four new oil wells at the site near Gatwick Airport.

Members of the council’s planning committee voted on 11 September by seven to two to approve the application by a subsidiary of UK Oil & Gas plc, despite opposition from local residents.

Weald Action Group told a public meeting in Horley last night that it would seek a judicial review of the decision on three grounds: climate change, local earth tremors and developments in the green belt

The challenge would need to prove that the council acted unlawfully in the way it took the decision.

190925 HH Lorraine Inglis

Lorraine Inglis, Weald Action Group, speaking at a public meeting in Horley on Horse Hill oil drilling, 25 September 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Lorraine Inglis, of Weald Action Group, told the meeting:

“We think that we have a strong case. This is the only way we can look at stopping UK Oil & Gas drilling their wells. To have up to 20 years of oil production in a time of climate emergency is just crazy.”

The group is now fund raising and seeking a local resident to bring the case.

190925 HH Chris Lowe

Chris Lowe, of Norwood Hill Residents Association, speaking at a public meeting in Horley on Horse Hill oil drilling, 25 September 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Chris Lowe, of Norwood Hill Residents Association, urged people to support the challenge:

“This our area. This is our place where we live. This is our livelihood. We want to protect it. We have got to protect the amenity of this area.”

190925 HH Sarah Finch

Local resident Sarah Finch speaking at a public meeting in Horley on Horse Hill oil drilling, 25 September 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Local resident Sarah Finch said:

“A lot of people spent a lot of time writing very detailed, well researched submissions [to Surrey County Council] about this application, particularly on earthquake risk and climate change.”

But she said these submissions were not reflected in the planning officer’s report to committee members, which recommended approval.

Ms Finch said the section of the report on climate change relied on out-of-date documents which were published before the Paris climate agreement and the UK’s binding commitments on reducing carbon emissions.

The report also dismissed concerns about seismic events in the area near Horse Hill. Since 1 April 2018, there have been 170 tremors centred on the village of Newdigate, 13 of which they were felt.

190925 HH Lynette Kaufman

Lynette Kaufman speaking at a public meeting in Horley on Horse Hill oil drilling, 25 September 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Lynette Kaufman told the meeting:

“Surrey County Council has repeatedly argued that seismicity is not a planning responsibility.

“This issue was raised by councillors at the meeting but their concerns were dismissed and their questions were not answered.

“The area is now an earthquake-prone area. Four more oil wells and one water reinjection well can only exacerbate this. The committee should take this seriously, rather than ignore it.”

Ms Kaufman said the officer’s report did not acknowledge that a 3D seismic survey had not been carried out. It also did not note that the earthquakes were continuing, with four this month.

She said:

“The only way the information reached the councillors was by direct mailing before the meeting.”

The meeting also heard that very special circumstances were needed to justify approving industrial development in the green belt.

Ms Finch said the only argument put forward by UK Oil & Gas was the need for oil But this is out of date, she said. The demand for oil was reducing.

  • Last year, Surrey County Council chose not fight a legal challenge by another campaign group over a different oil site in the green belt. This case centred on the council’s approval of plans by Europa to install fencing and buildings at a proposed oil exploration site near Leith Hill.

Reporting from this meeting was made possible by donations from individual DrillOrDrop readers

11 replies »

  1. Is it democratic when company investors enter huge numbers of comments from multiple ‘address’ yet a 700 name petition from locals is not considered?

    • Comments from both sides are generally irrelevant to the planning process. Petitions (at least in my north west LPA are ignored). So pro / anti not relevant unless specific planning policy points are raised.

      • Agree Paul. Too many petitions produced by people being accosted in the High Street and signing something they did not address properly, simply in a rush to get to their shopping/work. Seen it done many times.

  2. Ever thus Lisa-except your suggestion does contain a large degree of speculation. However, exactly the same criticism has previously been directed towards those from “the other side”.

    If there were company investors who supported the company I see no problem with that. Many could be investors because they believed in what the company was trying to achieve, just in the same way others may like to crowd fund this proposal. (Seems investors into Tesla use the argument of what the company is trying to achieve constantly, as they lose capital and see no profits.)

    Your 700 could have taken the time to comment in the same way you state company investors did.

    There is no shortage of democratic opportunities in this particular case, and to suggest otherwise just tries to change the reality into make believe. If that is the sort of argument to be placed before a Review, my advice would be-don’t bother. You may find that reality is what will be considered, such as the current reality of alternatives:

    “An American police officer pursuing a suspect in an experimental electric patrol vehicle was forced to abandon the chase when the car’s batteries ran out”. The Times, 27/09/2019.

    • Investors who choose to support this whilst people’s homes are being directly affected simply have no morals. But we know that anyway as they back the dirty fossil fuel industry! Shame on you!!! What will you say when your children /grandchildren ask what you did to prevent climate change???

  3. Probably more than you Green wash.

    My children use fossil fuel a lot more than I do, and if I ask them why, they state because the alternatives are not yet cost effective and/or they do not support the lifestyle they want. (maybe they want criminals caught?) Many BILLIONS of people around the world now entering an income bracket where they can make the same choices and are doing so.

    Just listened to a Radio 4 piece on the journalism around fracking as accelerated by Balcombe! Interesting how you fit so easily into that sort of narrative, but I will not suggest you should feel the shame of utilising products from the “dirty fossil fuel industry” as you type away on your plastic keyboard. I recognise I use fossil fuel, and have an interest in mitigating where possible, like removing/reducing the huge environmental cost and risk of maritime transport. I also mitigate in other respects but maybe you could explain to me if you see a natural disaster on TV, or elsewhere, how the rescue services and reconstruction is achieved? Mainly through the utilisation of that fossil fuel is the answer. No, I feel no shame for that, only joy that the helicopters, bulldozers, pumps, chain saws, generators, heaters etc. etc. are able to save lives and help people back to a lifestyle they desire.

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