Regulation

Decision due on Dunsfold drilling scheme

Dunsfold Rig section 2 UKOG

Drilling rig proposed for UKOG’s Dunsfold site in Surrey. Source: UK Oil & Gas plc

Plans by UK Oil & Gas to drill at the village of Dunsfold in Surrey are due to be decided in the morning (Monday 29 June 2020).

The county council’s planning committee will discuss the scheme to explore for oil and gas at High Loxley Road.

The meeting, which begins at 10.30am, will be held virtually and will be webcast.

Five local people will have three minutes each to make the case against UKOG’s plans. The company is also expected to speak in favour of its proposals for vertical and horizontal wells at the site.

Council planners have recommended approval of the planning application, even though 78% of comments to a public consultation opposed it.

There have been objections from Surrey Wildlife Trust, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Waverley Friends of the Earth, Waverley Borough Council and  parish councils representing Dunsfold, Bramley, Alford, Witley and Cranleigh.

The nearby Dunsfold Aerodrome said the application had not properly considered the existing and proposed uses at Dunsfold Park, including the current operational airfield.

The proposed site is just outside the Green Belt and the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). It is next to an ancient woodland and is in an Area of Great Landscape Value.

The Surrey Hills AONB said the proposal would “would be a seriously incongruous feature in the Area of Great Landscape Value and compensation should be provided if mitigation is insufficient”.

Other reasons given by opponents of the scheme include:

  • Proposal is against government policy
  • Errors and incomplete information in the application
  • Lack of economic benefits
  • Unacceptable impact on local amenity and businesses
  • Noise, air quality, lighting
  • Risk to highway safety at Pratts Corner junction and High Loxley/Dunsfold road junction
  • Impact on ecology, archaeology, heritage and rights of way
  • Clear felling on nearby woodland would expose the well

A report by planners, that will be presented to councillors, acknowledged that the site was in a sensitive landscape and that the scheme would bring a “more industrialised feel” to the area.  There would also be an adverse effect on local businesses.

But officials concluded said the impacts on the environment and local people would not be significant and would be outweighed by the need for oil and gas.

Just over one fifth of comments to the public consultation supported the application. The main reasons given were economic benefits, reduce carbon footprint of domestically-produced oil and gas, need and low visual presence, noise and access.

An online petition against oil and gas exploration at Dunsfold, launched two days has collected more than 700 signatures.

  • DrillOrDrop will be reporting on the planning committee meeting.

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13 replies »

  1. “Council planners have recommended approval of the planning application, even though 78% of comments to a public consultation opposed it.”

    Recent experience of appeals where planners have recommended approval and Planning Committees refuse applications indicate refusal by the Planning Committee will be costly for the Council and anyone else who fights the inevitable appeal. And the work goes ahead anyway.

    78% nimby opposition is low – it is usually much higher?

    • Costs are not a material planning consideration so will have no influence on the outcome. Hopefully the decision makers will refuse this application.
      Could UKOG find the money to continue with the application if it is refused? Looking at their share price over the last 5 years one does wonder.

      • Precedent does though jP!

        Of course they could find the money. They have a very large “crowd” to fund, if required.

        • Costs refused after Councillors made the decision to refuse Cuadrilla’s application.

          The Committee’s decision was not so unreasonable as to be “Wednesbury” unreasonable in that it was not so unreasonable that no reasonable authority would have come to this decision.

          Click to access Appendix%20C.pdf

          With the UKOG share price so low I am surprised the planners didn’t request a couple of million pound upfront bond in case UKOG went under and left the site abandoned.

          • So, you missed the Wressle enquiry, jP??

            Very convenient, but £500k and a precedent will mean a lot do not.

            • In case you didn’t read it, the reasons costs were refused,

              The Development Control Committee was entitled to weigh matters differently and to conclude as it did, considering potential conflicts with the development plan. The extent of disagreement with the Appellant’s landscape assessment was set out clearly in the Council’s own evidence. The Committee’s decision was not so unreasonable as to be “Wednesbury” unreasonable in that it was not so unreasonable that no reasonable authority would have come to this decision.

              No precedent as all applications are considered independently.

              Plenty of sound material planning reasons why it would not be unreasonable for the Councillors to reject the application and move it to an appeal which the applicant may or may not be able to lodge.

              • Yes, jP, there are plenty of valid reasons why an application can be turned down, and not all applications get over that hurdle.

                However, to turn down applications without that is costly. Letters from the public, and your hopes, are hardly going to sway matters. If there were plenty of material planning reasons against it would be a little odd for the Planning Officer to recommend approval!

                Surprised you are not supportive. Might help to mitigate against your comments around plenty of cheap gas and oil sloshing around the world just hours before the Beast from the East put that into context.

                Lack of economic benefits? Thought UKOG had already covered that?

    • Depends on who the “84%” are. If members of the public their submissions are irrelevant to the planning process. If it is a statutory consultee such as the EA then this is relevant. But the EA has just granted the Environmental Permit (at least according to DOD/UKOG).

      Surrey Wildlife Trust, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Waverley Friends of the Earth, Waverley Borough Council and parish councils representing Dunsfold, Bramley, Alford, Witley and Cranleigh also not relevant to the planning process – which is why the Planning Officer has recommended approval.

      We will see what happens today and in the future appeal if the Committee refuse it.

    • 367 written objections from members of the public, not all from local addresses and many of the reasons for objecting cannot be considered by the committee.

  2. But quality always wins over quantity!

    Heavy losses, Jono? In the words of Donald Trump, 8.20 23/6/20: ” I’m out. 30% profit.” As you are an avid reader of the UKOG chat, what a surprise you missed that. LOL. Maybe Donald missed that a few hours later it could have been 60%, but I’m sure he is still a happy bunny.

    Suspect the Planners recognize that fantasy over fact is a dangerous route.

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