Campaigner wins right to challenge council at appeal court over climate impact of oil plans

191026 HH Sarah Finch DoD

Sarah Finch at Horse Hill protest rally. 26 October 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

A campaigner against onshore drilling for oil and gas is to go to the Court of Appeal to challenge a decision by Surrey County Council.

Sarah Finch, from Redhill, will argue that the council acted unlawfully in September 2019 when it approved plans by UK Oil & Gas for four new wells and 20 years of production at the Horse Hill site near Gatwick airport.

Her case is that the council failed to consider all the greenhouse gas emissions of the project or the government’s net zero target for carbon emissions.

In February 2020, a judge at the High Court dismissed Ms Finch’s request for a judicial review of Surrey’s decision. (DrillOrDrop report)

200213 SCC jr request DoD

Campaigners outside the Royal Courts of Justice, 13 February 2020. Photo: DrillOrDrop

But Lord Justice Lewison has now granted her permission to take her case to the Court of Appeal.

He agreed that her grounds for a judicial review were arguable and justified a public hearing. He also said there was a challenge to national planning policy because it was not “in conformity with EU law.”

Lord Justice Lewison said:

“That is a point of some importance which ought to be considered at a full hearing.”

Ms Finch said:

“I’m delighted that I am able to bring this Judicial Review and challenge the Council’s decision to allow 20 years of oil production in a time of climate emergency. This legal challenge is happening because of the determination and generosity of so many individuals and local organisations.”

Ms Finch is represented by the law firm, Leigh Day. One of its solicitors, Rowan Smith, said:

“Our client maintains that Surrey Council has failed in its obligations to assess the indirect greenhouse gas impact of the use of oil produced from this development, as well as to properly consider the environmental objectives of the government’s Net Zero target before granting planning consent. Sarah Finch is rightly delighted that she has been given permission to appeal.”

A full hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London could be heard later this year. Ms Finch has raised more than £22,000 towards her legal fees through crowdfunding.

18 replies »

  1. Good old Crowdfunding!, well the UK if not mention the Worlds population is reaching peak heights, what i will we do regarding the energy of the future…
    Each Wind Turbines shelf life of 20 years, a need for ever changing technological challenges, industry regulations and the world with a thirst for powering emerging energy markets in Asia, Africa and South America.

    The UK’s pinprick approach to combatting climate change is being eradicated by the coal produced and powered powerhouses of China, South Africa, India and the USA. The UK government may have a target, but in the Worlds existence if these emerging markets governments and citizens don’t yield, then sorry but it’s all for nothing! #netzerohow

  2. I’m totally amazed that people are still sufficiently naive to buy the argument that stopping oil production in the UK will reduce carbon emissions. All it will achieve is to make NIMBYs happy, dictators richer, and shift production to places that have lower environmental standards than the UK.

    • Well be better get at it and open more cobalt mines for those Congolese children to mine toxic levels with their bare hands, and no personal protective equipment in order to reduce the price of electrification…

  3. The two would not be related, Dorkinian!! DOH.

    New extraction of domestic fossil fuels would reduce the need for UK to import so much fossil fuel. Simple maths. (It is not like the biscuit barrel that if it is to hand you consume more.) It would lead to a reduction in foreign extraction to supply the UK market. Does that really need spelling out?

    Foreign extraction is MUCH more related to WORLD demand for fossil fuels. You know that, most people know that. Stop the world population increasing and the consumption of “stuff” in the world if you want to address that. But you know that is the real issue and want to avoid addressing it.

    Sorry, but there are very few newbies coming onto the DoD site these days, so deliberately conflating two aspects of the equation will be a total waste of time. Even if there were, they might be familiar with Greta’s criticism of UK exporting our carbon footprint. (Just about the only area where I believe she has been fed the right line.) Perhaps try telling her about your amazement.

    Joined up thinking never been the strong point amongst the antis.

  4. The latest news from UKOG is that they are producing copious quantities of water from Horse Hill so much that the cost of disposing of the toxic stuff exceeds the value of the oil produced. They are now considering reversing the well and turning it into a water injection well for some of the other Weald Wells that have the same problem.

    It is strange that there seems to be an undelying assumption that drilling a well will always result in copious oil to displace the stuff imported from well established fields which have no shortage of the stuff and if we get on with our Carbon zero efforts never will.

    In his latest public announcement made the day before he disclosed to the world his water problem (one of very few appearances in recent months) the CEO of UKOG suggested that his efforts would not only contribute to energy security for the country but would also directly impact the nation’s shortage of PPE!

    I am not sure anyone was too convinced and as it turns out rightly so – there is very little evidence supporting UKOG’s hypothesis of a widespread connected oil pool under the weald and now the gatwick Gusher has morphed into the Horse Hill sprinkler it is to be hoped that this midget company and its legion of bewildered “investors” will find something more useful to do.

    • This seems to becoming a site where individuals just post something which is totally incorrect!

      At first, I thought it was just lack of any sort of research. Now, I am more inclined to believe it is a “cunning plan” to encourage any other souls too lazy to do their research that this is an opportunity for them to become excited, without bothering to identify why they are excited.

      Just ask the question. If WAD had any basis in FACT, then there is absolutely NOTHING to be concerned about! No significant oil just means exploration will show that, and then the sites will be restored.

      That lack of joined up thinking-AGAIN, and AGAIN, and AGAIN!



      • Martin Collyer

        If I was Miss Finch I would checking that I been advised correctly by her legal council correctly before going to court.

        Correct me if I am wrong but is it not the case that a environmental permit for Horse Hill was issued by the environment agency & this is not the responsibility of Surrey council or there planning committee but done by the national environment agency as it is net zero carbon emmisions nationality by 2050.

        I am sure there may be a local team who visit the site to ensure monitoring equipment is work & records are kept & are up to date.

        • It is the case that the site has a environmental permit issued by the environment agency to produce up 3500 barrel of oil per day. In which case the environment agency must have considered all of these issues in granting that permit.

          • From what I have just read there is a requirement for further UK oil & gas to be produced where possible & that should should reduce the amount of imported oil into the UK.

            This will give a net zero increase. There is a considerable amount of oil imports into this country & North sea production is falling so all UK produced oil will be greatly received.

    • World population was estimated to have reached 7.8billion people as of March 2020.

      More extraction IS required if we are estimated to have a population explosion in Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas by 2050.

      How are we to accommodate 12billion citizens and not to increase extraction?

      Dorkinian the argument which always come from the Greens, preaching green initiatives!, b!tching about how greenhouse gas emissions are too high, too much methane being produced in to the atmosphere… other than reducing population growth, explain how we tackle that little conundrum then you have your reduction!

      Unless you would like to propose a one child family policy? If not then allow the technologists with the brains and brawn to tackle this GLOBAL problem we are facing!

    • Dorkinian

      Another Red Herring!

      The greenhouse gasses of oil extraction that you talk about are flared off in flow tests & are converted though gas to wire into electricity in production.

    • Actually, it does not need to, Dorkinian. Wrong again.

      More extraction of fossil fuel in UK does not mean more extraction of fossil fuel world wide. You were wrong on that too.

      Are there NO factually correct bits you could post to support your argument?


      I have dined with three family generations in the Far East. Very interesting to hear from the younger generation, who have been brought out of poverty by the hard work of the previous two generations, what their intentions are going forward. It certainly is NOT to live like their grand parents and involves a much higher consumption of “stuff”. And, quite simply, there are a lot more like them than the ones in the West who have done all that and now want to become the “revert to yurts” gang.

  5. The fools & their money will soon be parted all £22,000 of it!

    Legal costs are not cheap you know?

    Piece of paper, piece of paper, piece of paper everything in place thank you very much!

  6. What a waste of time and peoples money in this case [edited by moderator] destroying jobs and income for the region and the uk economy especially in times of economic downturn .As if stopping production here of oil and gas is going to reduce other countries or even total production in the world or its consumption .The judge will throw this [edited by moderator] case out of court i think .

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