A Surrey resident has issued a legal challenge against the county council’s decision to grant planning permission for long-term oil production and more drilling at the Horse Hill exploration site.
Sarah Finch, from Redhill, has campaigned against drilling for oil at the site in the green belt near Gatwick Airport since 2013.
She said today:
“I believe the council’s decision to grant permission for more oil production at Horse Hill is wholly wrong.
“It is astonishing that while the planet is in the grip of a climate crisis, permission is being granted for the production of fossil fuels, which we should be trying to eradicate, not encourage.”
Her case is backed by the law firm, Leigh Day. Solicitor with the firm, Anna Dews, said:
“Our client believes that the council’s decision to grant permission for this development was unlawful and comes at a time when there is an increasing awareness both locally and globally of the need to urgently address the climate crisis and the requirement to reduce greenhouse emissions by at least 100% below the 1990 baseline.”
The county council approved plans on 11 September 2019 for four new oil production wells and a new water reinjection well. The permission allows the operator, Horse Hill Developments Limited, to produce oil for 20 years and increase the area of the site from just over 2ha to 2.8ha. It also permits four gas-to-power generators and seven new oil tanks, each with a capacity of 1,300 barrels.
The legal challenge asserts that the permission was unlawful for four main reasons:
- failure to assess the indirect climate change impact of the plans
- failure to assess the greenhouse gas impact from the oil the site will produce
- failure to assess the impact of the development on seismicity
- the detrimental impact of the development on green belt land
The case, brought with the support of Weald Action Group, will argue that the county council failed to comply with obligations of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive and regulations by not assessing the greenhouse gas impact of the proposals.
It will also argue that the council’s approach to the climate change impact was unlawful when considered against the requirements of its development plan and National Planning Policy Framework.
On seismicity, Ms Finch will argue that the council’s planning officer failed to address this issue, even though academics from Edinburgh and Glasgow universities predicted in statements that operations at Horse Hill could induce earthquakes. A series of seismic events has affected the area near Horse Hill since April 2018. The site operator has repeatedly said it has not caused the seismicity.
Sarah Finch is crowdfunding for her case.
- Work to drill a horizontal well at Horse Hill finished yesterday, the owner of Horse Hill Developments Limited said in a statement. UK Oil & Gas said the HH-2z well, approved by the county council two years ago, had been drilled to a length of 2,500ft into the Portland reservoir’s most productive zone of “sweet spot”. An extended well test would begin in the coming weeks, the statement said.