Villagers applaud surprise council rejection of UKOG’s Dunsfold drilling plans

200629 Dunsfold opposition WAG

Virtual protest before the Surrey County Council planning meeting on 29 June 2020. Photo: Weald Action Group

Dunsfold residents have welcomed a county council vote to refuse plans to drill near their Surrey village.

UK Oil & Gas, which was seeking permission to explore and test for oil and gas, said it was disappointed by the refusal and was likely to appeal.

The surprise decision went against the advice of council planning officers. DrillOrDrop live updates from the meeting

Six members of Surrey’s 11-strong planning committee voted to refuse permission.

The committee then agreed by 9-1 on the grounds for refusal: that the need for the scheme had not been demonstrated and that the adverse impacts of the scheme on highways, noise, lighting and air quality would not be significant, contrary to local planning policy.

Surrey County Council now joins Waverley District Council and five parish councils which opposed the scheme. 84% of people who took part in a public consultation also objected.

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

The campaign group, Protect Dunsfold, said in a statement this afternoon:

“Councillors rejected officers’ suggestions that everything objected to was either taken care of or would be mitigated – be it highways safety, loss of local business incomes, destruction of rural environment.

“We must applaud the councillors who showed they had listened to the valid concerns put before them and were prepared to take a stand and show that the Surrey County Council climate change strategy actually does have importance, as do the lives of local people.

“Maybe 2020 really will see the start of fresh innovative thinking at Surrey County Council.”

UKOG had applied to drill vertical and sidetrack wells to explore and test for gas in the Portland sandstone formation and oil in the deeper Kimmeridge limestone. It called the proposed well site Loxley, after the nearby hamlet.

In statements to the committee, the company said hydrocarbons from the site would “make a timely contribution” to the post-Covid-19 recovery in Surrey and the UK. The company also said Dunsfold could provide raw materials to produce personal protective equipment, of which there were UK shortages during the Covid-19 pandemic.

One councillor said this prediction was premature because the planning application was for exploration not production.

Another member warned the council that it could face costs if the application was refused and went to appeal. Council planners had said there were no valid reasons to refuse the application.

But Cllr Stephen Cooksey, who voted against the scheme, said:

“The right thing to do is to oppose the application.”

The four hours of discussion included testimony from the organiser of a cancer-awareness festival, who said his business could not survive alongside an oil well. This would result in the loss of two full-time and 42 part-time jobs, he said.

Another resident said his £4m business hosting weddings on land next to the proposed well site would be destroyed. This would have a knock-on effect on local caterers and hotels.

Public speakers and some councillors were also concerned that gypsy, Roma and traveller communities, the closest residents to the proposed site, had not been properly consulted. One speaker said some residents had been informed of the plans only last week.

Planning officer, David Maxwell, said the council thought the best way to consult the traveller community was to contact an “over-arching body”. The impact on the communities was considered acceptable, he said.

200513 View from site to High Billinghurst Farm 2

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

A statement from UKOG this afternoon said:

“We are obviously disappointed by Surrey County Council’s refusal of planning consent for our Loxley-1 appraisal project.

“Unfortunately, the precise reason or reasons for refusal and why the Planning Officer’s recommendation was overturned, remain unclear, which is less than ideal.

“The general structure and conduct [of the meeting] also opens up further questions on the validity of the decision. We also note that the Environment Agency granted the scheme a full environmental permit on 26 June covering all environmental aspects of the proposed scheme.

“Furthermore, we note that the meeting’s main discussion centred around a possible highways issue regarding the suitability of the Dunsfold road adjoining the site to accommodate the envisaged traffic flows. However, the County Highways and Planning Officers supported this aspect of the application, stating that the traffic mitigation plan would permit safe use of the road during operations.

“As UKOG made clear at the meeting, we believe Loxley is a material regional natural gas resource, which could have made, and could still make, a timely contribution to Surrey and the UK’s recovery from the Covid-related economic downturn, something that has affected everyone.

“It is particularly disappointing that such a net zero compliant project, which could have been used to generate clean hydrogen fuel for the UK, has had this setback.

“The Company is carefully considering its position. However, it is likely that we will appeal the decision via the planning inspectorate.”

The committee was the first virtual meeting held by Surrey. It was interrupted several times when the webcast failed and there were concerns that the meeting was not truly public.

Updated to include detailed grounds for refusal

35 replies »

  1. Using Covid as a reason to drill is absolutely off the planet , UKOG don’t make masks or anything else, there are more than enough suppliers of plastics to cope with any pandemic, the problem is manufacturing enough, Sorry Steve Sharecoin’s attempt at a green screen was a very amateurish attempt to look like he was at work just didn’t work, maybe he was enjoying a martini in Barbados?

  2. Very exciting news! I began a petition against this project which I will be keeping open until the SCC releases the official decision notice formally on it’s website, so in the meantime lets keep sharing and signing the petition and enjoy our success!

  3. Not just “Villagers” applauding SCC’s sensible refusal of this application. Many of us , throughout the Country who are knowledgeable about this on -shore unconventional Oil and Gas are also pleased that common sense prevailed. The next battle will be the application to Drill on the Isle of Wight.. which has no chance at all of getting passed.

  4. MsDiJones is misty-eyed if she thinks that this was an application was for an unconventional well. [Edited by moderator] The decision is likely to be reversed on appeal, at the expense of Surrey residents.

  5. Except you are not knowledgeable, as your text shows. Even where fracking is objected to elsewhere which could be defined as unconventional, most of those against admit in the one survey routinely conducted that they are NOT knowledgeable concerning the subject.

    • More Collywibble.

      In the last BEIS Wave survey (33) of those who opposed (45% of those polled) 80% claimed they “knew a lot\Knew a little” whereas just 20% admitted they were ‘Aware of it but not really know what it was\Never heard of it”.

      Of those who supported (just 8% of those polled) 71% claimed they “knew a lot\Knew a little” whereas just 20% admitted they were ‘Aware of it but not really know what it was\Never heard of it”

      On what are you basing your claim that “most of those against admit in the one survey routinely conducted that they are NOT knowledgeable concerning the subject.” Do tell!

      • Oh, you are still there, reaction!

        The survey showed quite clearly, on awareness:

        10% knew a LOT
        45% knew a LITTLE
        22% aware, but did NOT know what it was.
        22% never heard of it.

        Now, that means there is 1% missing! That would be the 1% who can not read simple data and wish to misrepresent to those who can? What a productive life you lead, reaction.

        10% knew a LOT, leaving 89% who admit they do NOT know a lot about the subject. 89% I suggest qualifies as MOST, as would 51%.

        If you want to look at it another way, if 45% opposed and ALL of the ones who knew a LOT (10%) were in those ranks (which they were NOT-and comments on DoD support that) then 35% opposing did NOT know a lot, and at best, a little about the subject. 35% out of 45% is again, MOST.

        And, of course, allowance might be required to compensate for individuals usually claiming they know more about a subject than they really do. Some then show they don’t! Not sure you wanted to demonstrate that, but thanks for that extra.

        Perhaps get someone else to check the lottery results for you. Numbers seem to be an issue.

        • “Now, that means there is 1% missing!”

          You know I really do believe that it is likely that you don’t even understand the effect of rounding Martian 🙂

          If I claim to know a little about a subject (like your propensity to waste our time on here for example) then I am claiming to be knowledgeable about it, but not to have complete knowledge. You can try to redefine terms all day but you can’t change facts old thing.

          Amusingly a very similar proportion of those supporting fracking make the same claims to levels of understanding, so what does that tell us according to your logic?

          • [Edited by moderator] Stick with the Emojis. They make a lot more sense.

            Knowledgeable-WELL INFORMED, intelligent: OED

            So, knowing a little is being knowledgeable? Perhaps you might find a job in some schools, but hopefully not one where any of my offspring might be educated.

            Not only numbers an issue, but you seem to have forgotten English as well.

            Squirm as much as you like, but basically you not only want to distort the numbers but also English.

            (“Teacher, I know 2 plus 2 must be somewhere in single figures, so I am knowledgeable!”
            “Sorry, lad, you know a little but you are not knowledgeable”.)

            Maybe teachers would be for the high jump these days bursting such a bubble. Sorry, old chap, not my style.


              • Probably does, old thing. But then, there are far fewer of them-so, what is your point?

                More from the OED:

                “Refract: at a certain angle when it enters obliquely from another medium (based on the Latin-refractus-broken again.)”

                Now, that is what is REALLY funny.

                But, let’s get serious.

                Looking at the buying frenzy for UKOG shares today, reduced in price by yesterday’s decision, this one could get really serious. I suspect there could be one or two investigations in addition to an Appeal.

                • “Probably does, old thing. But then, there are far fewer of them-so, what is your point?”

                  Just that Martin. I’m SOOO glad you noticed 😉

                  PS there’s a K in it doh!

                • But it is still fiction, old thing! DOH. Maybe Jeremy Corbyn on his allotment sees himself as Spaderman.

                  Could be that the “supporters” are in waiting for the economic data, and are just that bit more knowledgeable, waiting for that, and meanwhile sitting on the fence? Would seem the logical thing to do, a point we have discussed many times before. Maybe you decided upon your 3litre diesel BMW BEFORE you saw the performance data or the cost, however, from my days in marketed you would be the exception. I really don’t see that the Tracker Survey shows anything that is removed from the same for any “new product” that has been delayed. I know you would like to suggest it does, but the data does not. It will also now be moderated by the moratorium, so I suspect it’s days are numbered..

                • Oops!

                  ed instead of ing.

                  (New booking system at the tip, and I was in a rush not to lose my slot.)

                  Things could be worse, reaction.

                  There was the American obese super hero, who had his new lycra outfit delivered, and it was printed “Supperman”!

                • Only if you have your definition of knowledge, knowing little about a subject. (Your words.) Otherwise, if you were really knowledgeable, it does not.

                  But, of course if you know better than the OED, you are bound to know better than others about other matters. Even if your knowledge was little. LOL.

                  My post of June 30th, 8.22am, showed you do not. Maybe read a few more times and your little bit might get bigger?

                  Keep squirming, introduce the we/us and the Emojis, as extra support, (an old technique brought into modern use for the Internet) but the reality remains the same. You may want to deflect off into Wonderland, but that fools no one. Well, it might, but not many.

                  Good job you were not my boss. I would have been answering to the ASA every few months concerning misrepresentation of data.

                • “. I really don’t see that the Tracker Survey shows anything that is removed from the same for any “new product” that has been delayed. I know you would like to suggest it does, but the data does not. It will also now be moderated by the moratorium, so I suspect it’s days are numbered..”

                  Martin, First of all the BEIS survey covers a multitude of subjects so it’s continuation would have nothing to do with the moratorium. Didn’t you know? Really?

                  Secondly it has been conducted based on a representative random sample for some years now and the fact that you hate the direction of travel in public opinion does not invalidate the data or the conclusions that are drawn from it. Disagreeing with Martin Who Thinks He Knows Everything is not a statistically viable objection I’m afraid. The spread of knowledge is very clearly the same on the supporters and opposers, so if you wish to claim that opposition is based on ignorance that’s fine because by extension you are also saying support is too.

                  However, your condescending and patronising attitude to the public is pretty typical, and what is so funny is that you clearly have no idea that that very attitude coming from the industry spokespeople has also been a significant factor in turning public opinion against the industry. In your own particular case here it just demonstrates a lack of courtesy and self-awareness that will come as no great shock to those who have read your “contributions” over the years.

                  You are welcome.

                • You could have just admitted you were incorrect, rather than resort to a personal attack.

                  Of course you could not refute what I posted on 30th, 8.22am, so it ends up a personal attack, after a great deal of deviation. Even if you want to resort to a personal attack, maybe better to stick to facts rather than add in your fiction to justify. “Most” was pretty specific, and the maths. show that to be correct. If you can’t win the ball just try and chop down the player.

                  Strange logic that you can claim something incorrect and are not discourteous but someone who points out the reality is! Especially, when the someone is a qualified marketeer, who has designed and conducted numerous similar studies. (And, no, my resulting output was NEVER referred to the ASA.) But, it was you who tried to down play knowledge, so perhaps understandable. And, not the first time you have had problems on the same subject.

                  It was you who asked-“do tell”. I did. You could not refute the telling, so end up attempting to attack the one who tells!

                  I suspect Paul will be fed up by now, so I will leave it there. But, it has been an experience-again!

                • Oh, I am quite happy with free speech, old thing, but I am reminded regularly by Paul regarding what is acceptable on this site, and what is not. I do try and follow those rules expecting others will be required to as well, producing a level playing field. I remember when the rules were introduced and the reasons given at that time for their introduction, but if it has now gone back to how it was, then I can let rip! But, I will not, because I can make my points without.

                  In terms of courtesy, I would just remind you, and Paul, how this chat started, with your post of 29th June at 8.10pm:

                  “More Collywibble” were your FIRST two words. (From someone who is shy to use his name!) Many weeks without your input and then that. Still there. And then, you just dropped lower and lower, from your “courteous” start.

                  Don’t worry about it. I quite understand that when cornered, it is natural to come out fighting. But, I did think it was excluded from comments on this site, so, I try not to get cornered.

                  And, just to show my comments are accurate, 30th 8.29pm, first investigation commencing. And, that was just common sense, not even being knowledgeable.

    • I think this is the first time an oil/gas company has trumpeted its excitement about turning its methane into hydrogen. Trouble with hydrogen is that currently it’s too expensive to split it out of water, so, if it’s use proliferates, it will be split it out of methane and companies can continue with pride drilling and venting and polluting.
      All the nation’s gas pipes have been lined in anticipation, and hydrogen buses etc get reported as a fine thing.
      Anyway, good for just over half of Surrey County Councillors.

      • The UK gas distribution network is undergoing an upgrade to ensure leakage rates are at least below 0.5%, with the target being 0.3%.
        This would also make the network suitable for Hydrogen distribution.

        Electrolysis using renewable electricity to produce Hydrogen is far too expensive, especially when we are paying the UK’s biggest offshore wind farms over eight times more than the market price for each MWh they generate.

        Nuclear would be a more reliable and alternative low carbon source of electricity for electrolysis to produce Hydrogen, but it seems that those against oil and gas are also against nuclear.

        So we are only left with the options of Steam reforming or part oxidisation of Methane for mass production of Hydrogen.

        • Or Fusion, hewes62. Perhaps that might be the break through that changes things. Bit like the way the Israelis seem to have solved the large scale desalination cost issue.

          I also thought the hydrogen matter had been well aired by Cuadrilla over the last couple of years.

          • Martin
            Yes Fusion in about 30 years i guess.
            Michael Brooks, in his book ’13 things that do not make sense’ looks at cold fusion. Maybe 60 or 600 for that.

  6. Strangely enough I have seen this argumnent about niche products before on comments…. before it was someone saying that fracking was a good thing beauwe it could help with provision of hand sanitiser…now pull the other one as my mum used to say. Much packaging is indeed made of plastic and so is some PPE, but we should be trying to minimise our use of plastic and trying a lot harder to use technologies that are planet friendly.

    • The discussion was about Ineos being the largest manufacturer of Ethanol and Isopropyl alcohol, the two main chemicals required to manufacture hospital grade hand sanitizer to EU regulation requirements and W.H.O recommendations, and how they were virtual signalling with their plans to build a plant to manufacture hand sanitizer in 10 days.
      I believe they have built at least six plants so far and have donated over 4 million bottles of sanitizer, free of charge to hospitals in the UK, EU and US during the Covid-19 pandemic.

      Seems a very generous man Sir Jim, I also hear he spent $5 billion today expanding his chemical manufacturing portfolio.

      Single use plastic is absolutely vital in medical and research situations. Pollution from plastic is caused by incorrect disposal by the end user, not by the plastic manufacturing industry. As we have seen during the lifting of the lockdown restrictions, the incorrect disposal problem is not just limited to plastic, those that have a problem correctly disposing and recycling plastic also seem to have the same problems with glass, metal etc.

  7. Having watched this meeting in amazement at the total incompetence of the committee Begs the question who selects these morons? They were advised that their decision was not sound and would cost the tax payers hundreds of thousands of pounds ,money the local schools or hospitals really needs. These fools should be held accountable for their inaction personally! What were they thinking ! If anything !
    How they could embarrass themselves in this way begs belief.

    • The inspectors comments at a Cuadrilla appeal show how Councillors are well within their rights to see things differently from a planning officer and in this case Cuadrilla were refused their request for costs.

      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.

      The reasons Surrey Councillors gave for rejection were sound and material. Even if UKOG could afford to appeal I doubt they would be successful.

  8. So, what reasons are those jP? Seems the meeting was unsure and nothing official yet from SCC to UKOG.

    If you can find any reason within the chaos of the meeting, well done. However, I suspect they are still working out the “reason” to plonk on the rejection, in the hope it may save them some money.

    • Well done east yorkshire. Looks like the Humber Estuary area and English Offshore wind is leading the world in green energy. Who would have thoughy. Just need more fish boats based in Grimbsby.

      • Biofuel plant to possibly reopen next with the introduction of E10 in the UK during 2021, hewes62.

        Greenpea, Enemies of industry and Brain dead rebellion will never recognise the UK’s green progress and achievements though.

  9. After sitting through what could only be described as “the longest Monty Python sketch ever made” I really dispair for this country. We need oil and gas and will continue to need it for sometime yet. Small oilfields have existed in the UK down narrow country lanes for over a hundred years.

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