Regulation

Breaking: Dunsfold drilling plans refused – live news updates

200629 Dunsfold meeting

Members of Surrey County Council’s first virtual planning meeting refuse plans to drill at Dunsfold, 29 June 2020. Photo: Surrey County Council webcast

This post has live news updates on the decision over proposals to explore for oil and gas near the village of Dunsfold in Surrey.

The county council’s planning committee has voted in its first ever “virtual” session, to refuse plans by UK Oil & Gas. This was despite recommendation by planning officers to approve the scheme. Link to webcast

The company was seeking planning permission for three years to drill and test vertical and sidetrack wells to target gas in the Portland sandstone formation and oil in the deeper Kimmeridge limestone.

Local councils and 84% of responses to the public consultation objected to the application. They were concerned about the impact of the scheme on landscape, climate change, local businesses, air quality, light pollution, highway safety, noise and local ecology and heritage.

200629 Dunsfold opposition WAG

DrillOrDrop Dunsfold key facts and timeline

Reaction to the vote


These are news updates reported live and are not an official or verbatim report of the committee. Please let us know if you spot mistakes or feel we have misrepresented evidence.


Key points from the meeting

  • Councillors narrowly vote to refuse the proposals against the advise of officers
  • More than 80% of responses to public consultation oppose the proposal
  • The scheme does not conflict with the climate change agenda, planning officer says
  • Site traffic would cause “mayhem”, committee told by opponent
  • Traffic management proposals are “heath robinson”, says councillor
  • Local businesses would be damaged or destroyed, local councillor says
  • Extra heavy goods vehicle numbers would be “minuscule”, officer says
  • No technical consultees opposed the application
  • Webcast has repeated pauses leading to complaints that meeting is not fully public

200629 Dunsfold map2

Location of proposed well site. Map: Surrey County Council planning report


3.25pm Discussion on reasons to refuse

The committee votes by 9 votes to 1 to approve the following reasons to refuse:

“It has not yet been demonstrated that there is a need for the development nor that the adverse impacts in respect of highways, noise, lighting or air quality will not be significant, contrary to policies MC12, MC14 and MC15 in the Surrey Minerals Plan 2011.”

3.07pm Adjournment

Meeting adjourns to 3.25pm to finalise planning conditions.

3.05pm UKOG shares plunge

aaUKOG sharer

2.55pm Vote to refuse

Councillors vote to refuse the application by six votes to five.

Councillor discussion

2.52pm Tim Hall

Cllr Hall, the committee chair, says he knows why there are real concerns.

He says there doesn’t support the proposal to  refuse. He says he will call a vote to refuse and then one to defer the decision.

2.50pm Bernie Muir

Cllr Muir says she would vote for a deferral in the absence of suitable reasons.

She says when there is a sign saying a road is unsuitable for heavy goods vehicles it is unsuitable.

The events survey was done when there was no event going on or being set-up/broken down, she says.

This sounds like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole and I am nervous about this.

2.48 Edward Hawkins

Cllr Hawkins says he will vote to refuse the application in the absence of a fully worked traffic management plan. There is no reason to refuse because of concerns about appeal. We are saying there is not sufficient traffic management information.

He says there are fears about the impact on local business.

2.42pm Stephen Cooksey

Cllr Cooksey supports the recommendation to refuse. He says committees should not be threatened by the risk of appeal.

He says every democratic organisation that has been invited to comment has objected.

I do worry that there have been difficulties with consultation. I don’t know why the traveller community has not been consulted but I think they have a legitimate complaint.

The impact of 2,000 new houses in that area would also be significant he says.

Cllr Cooksey says the government’s advice on climate change and oil and gas developments is conflicting.

On roads, he says:

The consistently changing highways arrangements have not dealt with the consequence of having large vehicles on inadequate roads.

I have not seen evidence that the arrangements prevent inconvenience from the site traffic to other road users.

There were also concerns about hydrogen sulphide. The right thing to do is to oppose the application.

2.27pm Ernest Mallet

Cllr Ernest Mallett SCCCllr Mallet says he is disturbed by the discussion of the application.

[2.27pm webcast pauses]

If we make a decision that is not solid on planning, the council could face costs of thousands of pounds, he says.

He describes the reasons for refusal as “what if” scenarios.

The dispute on highways seems particularly vulnerable on appeal, he says.

“Western society relies on facilities. These facilities have to be somewhere. There seems to be a view in this part of Surrey that they can use the oil and gas but do not have to be subjected to any inconvenience.”

Cllr Mallet says other Surrey oil wells are small, quiet and with little chance of leakage.

“I am finding it very difficult to find any reason for refusal.

“Once its established, this would be a relatively quiet, insignificant site.”

The council has given permission for an events venue which has £4m turnover with 8,000 people visiting a year. That’s probably 80 cars at a time, he says.

“You can’t allow all that and then claim that 20 lorry movements a day is a danger or causing a problem.

“You can’t consider something on the ‘what-if’ situation.

“If you go to appeal, the other side will decimate the council.”

Cllr Mallet says businesses have to compete and it is not a planning reason to say another business will be affected.

No £4m business is going to close because of this application, he says.

“We are in danger of trying to deal with this application on a special basis, in a way that we haven’t dealt with any other oil and gas operation.”

There would be “massive control” from the other regulatory agencies, he says.

He describes the objections to the UKOG site as “emotional” but there was nothing to “get a handle on”.

If it were refused, the council would be “slaughtered at appeal”, Cllr Mallet says.


Meeting resumes

2.19pm Reasons for refusal

200629 Penny Rivers

Cllr Penny Rivers says she is proposing refusal of the application on the grounds of significant adverse impact on highway safety, residential amenity and business, without any demonstrable benefit.

Caroline Smith, the council’s planning development manager, says it will be difficult to prove significant impact at appeal of highway safety. The need for the development is established in government policy.

There is no reason to reject this planning application, she says.

200629 Andrew Povey

Cllr Andrew Povey, who has seconded the proposal to refuse, says there is no evidence for the need for oil or gas. The decision should be rest on general national policy.

He says county highways department had put up a sign that it was not suitable for heavy goods vehicles. Professionally, Surrey Highways have deemed it a very dangerous road and that’s why they’ve said it is unsuitable for HGVs.

Cllr Povey says he was not given an answer to his question that Surrey policy said the Area of Great Landscape Value – which includes the well site – should have the same status as the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

He says there would also be massive disruption to the local economy.


Adjournment

The meeting adjourns to 2.15pm to allow councillors to finalise the reasons to refuse the application.


Officers respond

1.33pm Caroline Smith

The council’s planning development manager, Caroline Smith, recognises members have concerns about traffic issues. She says the traffic management plan would have to be submitted if permission were implemented.

She says members must be sure that there are not just adverse impacts but that they are also significant. Planners says the impacts are not, she adds.

1.31pm Stephen Jenkins

Planning development manager, Stephen Jenkins, says Cllr Rivers’ reasons for refusal are not planning reasons that would stand up at an appeal.


Calls for refusal and deferral

1.26pm Cllr Penny Rivers

aaRiversCllrPennyCllr Rivers proposes the application should be refused.

She says an update sent to councillors on traffic management at 9.11am this morning was “a bit late”.

She asks how the application would affect Surrey’s climate change strategy.

Living now in a time of pandemic shows us even more clearly how fragile we are.

A minimum impact on the area is not no impact, she says. The company’s argument that oil and gas can help supply materials for protective personal equipment is premature because the application is for exploration, not production.

Local businesses needs more support now. The known harms of this application outweigh potential benefits.

The impact on the community is greater than the advantages.

1.26pm Cllr Edward Hawkins

Cllr Hawkins says he is very concerned about the application. He proposes a deferral for more information on traffic issues.


Response from council officers

1.24pm Caroline Smith

Ms Smith, the planning development manager, says the nearby Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is due to be extended but this is not confirmed and was not taken into account in the recommendation to approve.

1pm David Maxwell

200629 David Maxwell2

Travellers

David Maxwell, the planning officer, says the council thought the best way to consult the traveller community was to contact an “over-arching body”. The impact has been addressed in the officers’ report and considered acceptable, he says.

Air quality

Mr Maxwell says an air quality condition would not be justified. He rejected the suggestion that traveller homes were less air tight than built properties.

Highway damage

He says a condition, rather than a bond, would deal with damage to the highway.

Wheelwash

He rejects a suggestion that there should be a wheel wash. This hasn’t been required at other oil and gas sites in the county. He says any debris would be shaken off on the internal site access track.

Highway safety

Mr Maxwell dismisses the idea that cars on Dunsfold Road would have to brake sharply to allow vehicles to leave High Loxley Road. The increase in HGV traffic is “absolutely miniscule” in transport terms, he says.

The latest transport management scheme, sent in this morning, is simpler and would be included as a condition if permission were granted.

Mr Maxwell says UKOG had addressed a late objection that HGVs could not navigate High Loxley Road. It would be pragmatic to do highway widening in the lane of up to 0.9m, Mr Maxwell says.

Bunching of vehicles would not lead to problems because the extra number of HGVs would be so small, he says.

Exceptions in the planning for extra HGVs journeys would give UKOG flexibility, Mr Mawell adds.

24-hour working

Mr Maxwell concedes that the well would be drilled 24-hours a day. But across the application as a whole, nighttime working would be intermittent, he says.

Other sites sub-commercial

Mr Maxwell says UKOG’s comment that flow tests results from Horse Hill and Broadford Bridge were sub-commercial referred to its other sites in the region.

Flaring

Mr Maxwell says the council has brought the issue of flaring to the attention of the Civil Aviation Authority.

Wedding venue

The wedding venue has sought to increase the number of events from 30 to 50 a year, Mr Maxwell says. The council had considered the number of guests coming to the venue, rather than set-up and break-down events vehicles, he adds.

Use of land

Planning officers have considered a well site would be a suitable use of the land, Mr Maxwell says.

Noise

Mr Maxwell says conditions would control the impact of noise from the site. UKOG has said they can comply with nighttime noise limits.


Councillor questions and statements

12.54pm Bernie Muir

200629 Bernie Muir2

Cllr Muir asks whether officers are considering the former numbers of guests at the nearby wedding venue or the future likely number of guests.

She also asks:

  • How significant is the impact of the development on the local economy
  • What happens when HGV numbers exceed what is proposed
  • HGVs are likely to go onto the verges when they turn into High Loxley Road, potentially causing accidents

Cllr Muir says she previously voted for onshore oil and gas applications but she is concerned about travel arrangements.  We don’t have up-to-date information on the latest traffic management proposals. How can we determine the application?

12.49pm Yvonna Lay

aaYvonnaLayCllr Lay says the planners’ report is ambiguous on 24-hour working.

She says she is also concerned about the number of heavy goods vehicle (HGVs) each day. First we were told eight, now we’re told 20. There were exceptions for extra HGVs. This could become the norm, she says.

Cllr Lay says she doesn’t understand the comment that the Horse Hill and Broadford Bridge flow tests results were sub-commercial.

She asks for information about the impact of flaring on flights.

On the neighbouring wedding venue, she says most weddings are on Fridays and Saturdays, not Saturdays in the officer’s report, she says. I would be very upset if I had paid £30,000 for a wedding and they were drilling, she adds.

Cllr Lay says she is very concerned that the infrastructure is not in place.

She adds that

“I cannot honestly say that this is a good use of the land.”

12.42pm Edward Hawkins

200629 Edward Hawkins

Cllr Hawkins says he is disappointed to hear there had been delays with informing residents of the gypsy and traveller sites.

He calls for air quality monitoring and “a substantial bond” to contribute to repairs to any road damage.

Cllr Hawkins says there needs to be properly-managed hours of operation, probably starting at 9am to avoid the school run. The whole area needs to be taken into consideration.

He says he is confused about the traffic controls at Pratts Corner and rejects the proposal of an agreement after permission were granted:

“Before any consent is granted we need to see a definitive traffic management plan.”

Cllr Hawkins says he has supported applications like this in the past but on this he says

“I am genuinely torn”.

12.36pm Keith Taylor

Cllr Keith Taylor SCCCllr Taylor says there is a working gas extraction site at Albury in his division. Gas from the site goes by pipeline into the grid, he says. The local parish council has never raised objections to the principle of the Albury site, he says.

On Dunsfold, he says he has sympathy with local residents but he is struggling to find planning reasons to refuse the application.

12.23pm Dr Andrew Povey

200629 David Maxwell and Cllr Povey

Cllr Povey (left) says the Area of Great Landscape Value, in which the proposed site is based, has been undervalued by planning officers. He says a previous council policy said the AGLV would be treated in the same way as the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). When was the policy changed, he asks.

Cllr Povey says the AONB was to be extended but this hadn’t been taken into account in the officers’ recommendation to approve.

The entire traffic route of High Loxley Road to the site is designated as unsuitable for heavy goods vehicles, Cllr Povey says.

“I am struggling to understand that the county highways can say it is suitable for additional 5,000 HGV movements a year. To me it doesn’t make sense.”

Planning officer David Maxwell (pictured right) says the impact on the AGLV was acknowledged but was considered not significant.

He says the extension to the AONB could not be taken into account because it was not know what the outcome would be.

Mitigation measures are significant to ensure the impacts would not be significant, Mr Maxwell adds.

On High Loxley Road, the committee is told a notice “not suitable for HGVs” is advisory. There have been no recorded accidents involving HGVs and the increase is reasonably small. The council will require a record of vehicle registrations and arrival times, a highways officer says. He says:

I am satisfied the increase will not have an impact on safety.

12.07pm Bernie Muir

200629 Bernie MuirCllr Muir says there is no information about traffic setting up and breaking down events at a nearby wedding venue that would use High Loxley Road. They could come into conflict with traffic from the drilling site, she says.

That concerns me and I don’t think that situation has been brought out in the papers we have here. The highway is incompatible with that scenario.

The road is a square peg and the solution a round hole. I don’t see this is a safe and adequate way to protect the traffic.

Cllr Muir suggests the proposal to use banksmen is “heath robinson”. She questions the proposed number of site vehicles each day.

A council highways officer says the number of vehicle movements on the lane is very low when events are not happening. There are already large vehicles using the lane. There has been one serious accident and one slight accident at the junction in the past five years.

On lorry movements, the officers says there will be a maximum of 10 in and 10 out in each day. This was a small additional increase in traffic numbers, he says.

The officer says the transport arrangements had been audited for safety. The speed limit had been reduced. Traffic would be properly managed by a professional company. There was adequate enforcement under legislation to ensure traffic was properly managed, he says.

UKOG says it will liaise with the nearby wedding venue, the officer adds.

I am satisfied the cumulative impact can be adequately mitigated, he says.

Cllr Muir asks what would happen if the company did not work with the wedding venue and what level of enforcement was available.

The highways officer says High Loxley Road is single track. There would be localised widening to prevent damage to the verges. Large vehicles coming to the site would be controlled by traffic management arrangements using professional experienced staff. We have powers to take action if they do not comply with the proposals, the officer says.

The committee is told infringements could result in prosecution.


Planning officer presentation

11.55am David Maxwell

200629 David Maxwell

Mr Maxwell says there would be a maximum of 20 HGV movements a day. There are seven listed  buildings nearby, he says. The rig would be up to 35m and a crane could measure up to 42m.

There is a demonstrable need for the development, Mr Maxwell says. It would result in wider public benefits and would not conflict with the climate change agenda.

Mr Maxwell says the borough council strongly objected, along with six parish councils and local amenity groups. 84% of responses to a consultation opposed the application.

Concerns were capable of being resolved with mitigation or planning conditions, Mr Maxwell says.

Officers recommend the application be permitted, subject to conditions, he says.

200629 Dunsfold boundary


Local councillor speaks against the application

11.51 Victoria Young

200629 Victoria Young

Cllr Young says she is speaking on behalf of local residents and people preparing to move in to the Dunsfold Garden Village.

There are strong communities that will be deeply affected by the proposals, she says. The adjacent gypsy and traveller communities have not been consulted and were only made aware of the application last week, she says.

The nearby wedding venue generates £4m of revenue and the loss of the business would have a large knock-on effect for local businesses. A cancer-awareness festival would not be possible if the application was approved.

Part of the screening by trees would be removed because of felling plans, Cllr Young says.

The introduction of an industrial site would damage the views to and from the area of outstanding natural beauty.

50 tonne articulated lorries would move out into a fast B road near a blind bend, she says.

The known harm is greater than any benefits there could be.


UKOG statements resume

11.44am Stephen Sanderson

200629 Stephen Sanderson

Mr Sanderson, the chief executive of UK Oil & Gas plc. says he lives in Waverley district.

He says UKOG has demonstrated it has a regulatory compliance record that is second to none. He says an environmental permit for the Dunsfold scheme was granted last week by the Environment Agency.

This shows the plans and procedures meet the EA’s high standards of environmental protection, Mr Sanderson says.

The Dunsfold scheme complies with the UK’s legal target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and can help with post covid recovery, he says.

He says the gas resource at Dunsfold is potentially one of the largest in the UK’s history – based on evidence from three legacy wells.

Producing this gas is fully compliant with the Committee on Climate Change’s net zero ambition and Surry County Council’s climate emergency, Mr Sanderson says. UKOG should know whether it would be commercial within months

We believe that this resource could potentially deliver via hydrogen from reformulated natural gas or via transitional natural gas the energy equivalent to heat around 100,000 households per year or to power around 200,000 households with electricity.

Mr Sanderson says gas plays a key part in attaining net zero as a transitional fuel and, more importantly, as a feedstock as a reformulation into clean burning hydrogen. UKOG would commit to making any scheme at Dunsfold hydrogen-ready.

He said estimates indicate that the UK would spend £1bn a year on gas imports over 30 years. Long distance gas imports have a markedly higher greenhouse gas footprint than indigenous gas and they make little contribution to the UK’s gross domestic product.

The greener life enjoyed during lockdown, from a huge reduction in oil and gas consumption, has come at an unprecedented unsustainable and potentially catastrophic economic expense.

Oil and gas has helped us survive the pandemic, via PPE [personal protective equipment], intubaters, ventilator pipes, and the like, all made from petroleum products.

Mr Sanderson says if the Dunsfold wells were successful, they are some of the few that could “deliver benefits for local taxes, balance of payments and community benefits within the timeframe required to make a real difference when the UK and Surrey needs it most.”

He concludes: The site is well-screened. Traffic movements are low. The EA permit covers all environmental safeguards.

11.38am Matt Cartwright

200629 Matt Cartwright

Matt Cartwright, chief operation officer of UKOG, says the Dunsfold site would target the same rocks as the company’s Horse Hill site, though the main target at Dunsfold is gas.

He says the company sought good community relations. There would be community benefits from the site if it were successful. There would be local suppliers to keep economic benefits local.

[11.40am Webcast pauses and part of statement lost.]

[11.41am Webcast plays back part of Mr Cartwright’s statement.]

Mr Cartwright resumes: The Environment Agency has approved an environmental permit for Dunsfold so the committee does not need to consider these issues, Mr Cartwright says. He also says seismicity is also not an issue for the committee.

Oil and gas help to generate wealth, address fuel poverty, provide essential backup, Mr Cartwright says. The Dunsfold scheme would innovate and help rebuild supply chains. It is a sensible development in the public interest.


Problems with meeting webcast

11.27am Webcast still not working

Webcast message says:

“We are currently experiencing technical difficulties. We are working to resolve the issue. We apologist any inconvenience”

11.24am Webcast still not working

11.16am Meeting adjourned

The webcast says:

“This meeting has been paused and will recommence soon”.

11.11am Webcast pauses

Webcast “experiencing technical difficulties”.

“Playback has been lost. Attempting to resume”.

11.10am Concerns over webcast

The committee hears that the meeting is not fully public because the livestream is not working continuously.

11.07 Webcast pauses

200629 Dunsfold map


Statements from UKOG

11.04am Nigel Moore, UKOG consultant

200629 Nigel Moore

Mr Moore, a chartered town planner, says the site has been chosen because it is remote and screened by existing mature and new trees.

Modern exploration techniques would be used to minimise the duration of drilling, he says.

There will be no more than 10 HGVs a day, or one an hour, scheduled outside of peak times he says. During drilling and site construction, temporary traffic lights would be used during site operation and removed at the end of the day.

There would be no heavy goods vehicle deliveries on Saturday afternoons, Sunday or public holidays. High Loxley Road would be kept free for the nearby events venue. The company would work with event organisers to achieve “harmony”.

County highway officers find the application acceptable, Mr Moore says.

Mature trees on three sides of the site were in the control of the applicant and in good condition. They would continue to screen the site. The site is remote and well hidden, he says.

The application is acceptable, according to planning officers.

[11.07 webcast pauses for 1 minute. Part of the statement is lost.]

Mr Moore continues: Exploration at Dunsfold would help rein in over-stretched supply chains, he says.

The 2050 net zero carbon emissions and recovery from Covid-19 is only possible if the UK economy is resilient now, Mr Moore says. Investment in the UK must stay in the UK.

The collateral damage of Covid-19 has been enormous. We must plot a pathway to a low carbon future, Mr Moor says. The Dunsfold proposal would help to achieve this, he adds

[Meeting adjourns because of webcast problems. Mr Moore is later allowed to repeat his statement.]

200513 View from site to High Billinghurst Farm 2

View from the proposed site towards High Billinghurst Farm. Photo: High Billinghurst Farm


Statements from local people against the application

11am John Gray

200629 John Gray

Mr Gray, a local resident, says the national benefits of the UKOG application are less than significant. Previously driled local wells were abandoned but UKOG has not provided new seismic data.

He says the nearby Godley Bridge gas site was abandoned as non-commercial and encountered sour gas. The oil from Dunsfold would not be strategic or significant to the economy, Mr Gray says.

The company’s objective is to test for a continuous hydrocarbons in the region but this is not supported by evidence, Mr Gray says.

He adds that the natural fracture systems in the Kimmeridge are not pervasive and would not support an open continuous hydrocarbon deposit.

The application is contrary to planning policy and does not justify drilling, he says.

[The webcast pauses at 11.02. Part of the statement is lost.]

Mr Gray says the site has not been well chosen and would have negative impacts. It should be refused.

[Mr Gray is allowed to repeat his statement because of the webcast problems.]

Statements from local people against the application

10.56am Chris Britton

200629 Chris LindesayMr Britton says the opposition to UKOG’s proposal is “deafening but so far has fallen on deaf ears”.

He says

“the government has not told you ‘you must have an oil well at this location’. You have to balance benefit against harm and not simply dismiss local concerns as ‘not significant’.

He says the roads approach the site have above average accident rates, with recent fatalities, but he says these concerns have been dismissed.

Surely an inherently dangerous road is a dangerous road? This sole route into and out of the site, will be used by tankers, long low-loaders and Abnormal Loads. They will cross road centrelines on three blind bends and some are too wide to fit on the single track country lane approaching the site.

An update sheet on traffic management proposals, provided this morning, shows this is a complex application.

You should have expected to see full details of this solution and a workable and safe traffic management scheme. You have not.

He said the largest vehicles visiting the site would ground on the surface at Pratt’s Corner and some vehicles would be too wide for High Loxley Lane.

Councillors and local people need the chance to correct errors in the update, he says.

He warns councillors

This is a vital safety issue. Members, you cannot gamble on approving this application without full clarity that policy MC15 [a local planning policy] is satisfied.

Mr Britton says the National Planning Policy Framework, which sets guidelines for deciding applications, has economic sustainability as a “key plank”.

There would be real, quantifiable costs to local businesses, he says. He asks councillors:

“Have you found any quantifiable benefits of this application. The answer is no, because, councillors, there are none in this three-year exploratory proposal.”

He says:

“You have an historic choice to make; to preserve the lives and livelihoods of our rural community, or to permit a speculative venture, risking lives on our roads, harming our environment and with zero benefit. The genie will be out of the bottle and history will be your judge.”

Statements from local people against the application

10.52am Ashley Herman

Mr Herbert says UKOG told him the site had been picked because it was in the middle of nowhere.

But, he says, it is in the heart of the community, including his farm and two gypsy sites, with 85 homes housing 340 people. The residents of the gypsy sites have not been given a voice, even though the nearest lives 250m from the proposed well site.

Mr Herman says his business, which runs a cancer awareness festival, cannot survive alongside an oil well. This would result in a loss of two full time and 42 part time jobs, he says.

The need for oil and gas has gone, he says. The application can be refused. The permanent local harm far outweighs any dubious national need, he says.

He asks councillors:

Consider our situation and refuse this application.

[10.48am Webcast pauses. Mr Gordon reads his statement again when the webcast resumes.]

Statements from local people against the application

10.43am Tom Gordon

200629 Tom Gordon

Mr Gordon says High Loxley Road is a private meandering rural lane. He and his family have established a wedding venue on land off the road. One of the great benefits of the venue, he says, is the view of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Proposed widening the road to accommodate heavy goods vehicles for the site would destroy the tranquillity of the road, he says.

Traffic from the oil site would result in mayhem, he says, especially as most weddings are on Fridays when the well site would be fully operational.

If the application were approved, the rural setting would be ruined, destroying his business, reputation and livelihood.

[Webcast pauses and part of the statement is lost.]

Mr Gordon says his wedding venue is fully booked for 2021 and is taking reservations for 2022. His business supports other local companies, including caterers and bed and breakfast providers.

The application would affect his and other local businesses, he says. He urges the council to reject the application

Statements from local people against the application

10.40am Sarah Godwin

200629 Sarah GoodwinMs Godwin says Dunsfold is a beautiful village in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. She has lived there for 27 years.

She says 521 out of 623  to the public consultation on the application  were against. That is a convincing 84%, she says.

Residents live in clean, safe and green communities. This will be lost if UKOG gets the go ahead, she says. There will be a significant negative impact on nearby footpaths, bridleway and the landscape. The drill site, access road, security lights and fencing would all be a visible scar, she says.  There would be a real threat of pollution from noise, light, air, water and noxious gas.

Ms Godwin says the access route proposed at Pratts Corner was concerning because it is a four-way junction on a dangerous blind bend. The latest proposed traffic management plan has not allayed fears on highway safety.

The proposal would have an immediate irreversible impacts with a huge cost to the local economy and lifestyle.

The proposal offers neither short nor longer term economic benefit to the local community.

Ms Godwin says Dunsfold faces:

  • losing a rare area of unspoilt, peaceful countryside & its amenities
  • negative impact on wildlife, flora and fauna
  • increased HGV traffic on local roads
  • negative financial impact on local businesses and residential properties, especially those listed and in close proximity

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated major shifts in public thinking, she says.

What is needed now is innovative thinking and leadership to achieve environmental goals, here in Surrey and nationally.

She asks

“Is such a speculative, insignificant but potentially damaging drilling operation justifiable or appropriate in 2020?”

She urges councillors to refuse the application.


10.37am Meeting underway

This is the first virtual meeting of Surrey County Council’s development control committee. The chairman, Cllr Tim Hall, opens the meeting.


10.35am Webcast not yet begun

10.30am Meeting due to begin


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25 replies »

  1. Vehicle movements are a definite basis for refusal of industrial complexes in rural locations surely.
    Tell you what as well, when Cuadrilla walked this road about their fracking site at Preston New Road, Lancashire, they never mentioned needing convoys of HGVs entering and exiting the site under cover of darkness against planning regulations and requiring massive police facilitation!
    Not a single prosecution followed by the Gold Standard Monitoring of Lancashire County Council which clearly shows whose side they and the Constabulary are on!
    BEWARE.

  2. Except the professionals said that vehicle movements were not material, Peter, in this case. “Absolutely miniscule” was the term used. So, how is any qualified person who has made that statement suddenly going to reverse it at Appeal?

    I will be interested to see what “reasons” are given for refusal. No one seems to know at the moment! Those that have been suggested have little chance of getting any support at Appeal.

  3. Bad vote, now you will have to pay against the appeal. Furthermore, since when does a such a tiny number of selfish local busines interests overrule recommended planning plans. I wish I had that much leaverage in my backyard. I bet I could identify half a dozen farms with livestock near to those business claiming to be affected who’s ‘muck’ smell is ten thousand times more off putting than what the exploration drilling actually entails. I bet the test drilling will not be seen or even heard by the business that claim they will be distroyed. They are finished thanks to COVID-19 anyway. Another meaningless step back into the dark ages by people who will expect all their vehicles to be fuelled, the lights to work, gas to heat and cook with to be on tap, and let’s not forget about all the modern material they will use. If there is such an objection to gas, how about turning off the gas in Surrey right now and see how long before the ‘locals’ start screaming for it to be turned back on again. A week? Acouple of days? A day?

    • Colombo, your comments are extremely ill-judged, lack sensitivity and your reference to Covid19 is both irrelevant and in bad taste. You should have checked your facts, in particular your reference to the probable local reaction to any gas supply being turned off. Those residents who would be most affected by the disruption caused by UKOG drilling, notably those in Dunsfold and neighbouring areas, would not even blink an eyelid if the gas supply was turned off because there is no mains gas supply and we manage very well without it.

      • Maybe a little ill-judged yourself. Antoinette. You managing without something is not really the issue. You could decide to live in a yurt and say the same. However, “beggar my neighbours” has long been excluded from the planning process. Seems to have crept back in this instance but, I suspect, it will be removed at Appeal. And then your neighbours will be expected to pick up the bill.

  4. Great day for local people and businesses, I was expecting them to get steamrolled by SCC P&R committee, as per normal. Credit to the councillors for doing the right thing.

  5. On reading through the meeting is Quite clear this was an exercise in straw grasping. There was not One ground for refusal that could not have been mitigated with a condition. the Sooner UKOG Appeal this the better. & Make sure you claim full costs.

    • Cllr Andrew Povey, who has seconded the proposal to refuse, says there is no evidence for the need for oil or gas. The decision should be rest on general national policy.

      Surely the government has determined the need for oil & gas by selling the licences though the OGA & mandated it be done on a reasonable basis.

      What do you think will happen now that ‘Boris’ has torn up the planning rules to get the UK out of recession & back on track?

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