Dunsfold drilling inquiry – what to watch

Plans to drill for gas near the Surrey village of Dunsfold come under scrutiny at a public inquiry opening tomorrow (Tuesday 27 July 2021).

View of the proposed gas site from High Loxley Road looking east towards site and site access. Source: Surrey County Council

The hearing, which is expected to last nine days, will be conducted online and will be livestreamed.

It will hear evidence from the developer, UK Oil & Gas plc (UKOG), local councils and members of the public.

Surrey County Council twice refused permission for the proposal for two boreholes on land off High Loxley Road. (See details here and here) . It will be defending its decision on landscape, highways and planning grounds.

UKOG is expected to give evidence on these issues, as well as site selection, operations and climate change.

Waverley Borough Council and Alford Parish Council will be taking part in the inquiry as Rule 6 parties. This means they have the right to call witnesses and cross-examine UK Oil & Gas representatives.

The inquiry will also hear statements from local people, businesses and organisations.

DrillOrDrop will be reporting on each day’s hearing. You can catch up on the key points and detailed reports here.


Hearing dates: Tuesday 27 July-Friday 6 August 2021
Location: Online
Parties: UK Oil & Gas plc, Surrey County Council, Waverley Borough Council and Alford Parish Council (Rule 6 party)
Application reference: WA/2019/0796
Appeal reference: APP/B3600/W/21/3268579
Link: Planning inspectorate and appeal documents
Broadcast: The inquiry will be livestreamed on the Planning Inspectorate’s YouTube channel


Address: Land South of Dunsfold Road and East of High Loxley Road
Key facts and timeline


Inspector: Mike Robins
UK Oil & Gas barrister: David Elvin QC
UK Oil & Gas witnesses: Stephen Sanderson (site selection), Kris Bone (operations), Will Gardner (landscape), Steven Windsass (highways), Tom Dearing (climate change), Nigel Moore (planning)
Surrey County Council barrister: Jenny Wigley QC
Surrey County Council witnesses: Liz Brown (landscape), Graham Foulkes (highways), Richard Hunt (planning)
Waverley Borough Council and Alford Parish Council witnesses: Patrick Arthurs (planning), John-Paul Friend (landscape), Matin Knowles (highways)
Members of the public: details to be confirmed


The inquiry opens at 10am on Tuesday 27 July. All other days begin at 9.30am. The inspector has said he plans to run three sessions of one-and-a-half hours each day. He intends to sit from 2pm on Monday 2 August.

The proposed schedule is:

Tuesday 27 July

  • Opening announcements by the inspector
  • Opening statements by UK Oil & Gas, Surrey County Council and Waverley Borough Council and Alford Parish Council
  • Statements by members of the public and organisations
  • Landscape and visual impact – evidence from UKOG

Wednesday 28 July

  • Cross-examination of UKOG’s landscape witness
  • Landscape evidence by Surrey County Council

Thursday 29 July

Cross-examination of landscape evidence from Surrey County Council

Friday 30 July

  • Landscape evidence from Waverley Borough Council and cross examination
  • Possible further members of the public and interested parties

Monday 2 August

(Inquiry resumes at 2pm)

  • UKOG highways evidence and cross-examination

Tuesday 3 August

  • More cross-examination of UKOG highways evidence
  • Surrey County Council highways evidence and cross-examination

Wednesday 4 August

  • Evidence from Stephen Sanderson, UKOG chief executive
  • Cross-examination of Stephen Sanderson
  • Evidence by UKOG’s operations director, Kris Bone, and cross-examination
  • Surrey County Council planning evidence

Thursday 5 August

  • Cross-examination of Surrey County Council planning evidence
  • Waverley Borough Council planning evidence and cross-examination

Friday 6 August

  • UKOG planning evidence and cross-examination
  • Possible conditions

Friday 13 August

  • Site visit
  • Closing submissions

News updates from the inquiry

Check here for key points and links to reports from each day of the inquiry.


Appeal details

Core documents library with links to proofs of evidence, opening statements and rebuttals

Planning Inspectorate website for the appeal (APP/B3600/W/21/3268579

Notes of case management conference

DrillOrDrop report on second Surrey County Council decision meeting

11 replies »

  1. It’s imperative that Surrey CC acquire the specialist help to enable them to counter any climate change argument from UKOG. The climate change argument is the one argument that matters as emissions continue to rise and as the climate veers away from those patterns compatible with life on the planet. This is the one argument that it is important for UKOG to win if their licence to destroy and pollute is to be given a new lease of life: what a win for them in the lead up to Cop26! If they win then the fight against coal mining in Cumbria and development of new gas fields becomes that much harder to resist for this weak government. Government will not have the backbone meaningfully and actively to assert its climate-change plans in the lead up to and during Cop26. Get help, Surrey.

    • Too late to change anything now Iaith1720. Submissions have been submitted as required by PINS before the Inquiry. Expert witnesses are listed. The Inquiry presumably assesses the reasons the Planning Committee refused the application against planning law and determines accordingly. It is noted above that these are:

      “It will be defending its decision on landscape, highways and planning grounds.”

      From the DOD report of the second refusal:

      “Caroline Smith, the council’s planning manager, says a refusal must be backed by planning reasons supported by evidence.

      She says council officers do no consider MC1 is not relevant.

      She reads out policies MC14 on reducing the impact of mineral development and MC15 on transport issues.

      Caroline Smith says officers are strongly of the view that the application should not be refused.

      She says reasons for refusal could include that it has not been proved that the road network is suitable or the development would not have an adverse impact on highways safety, contrary to policy MC15

      It has not been demonstrated for the mineral planning authority to be satisfied that the development would not have an adverse impact on the landscape, contrary to policy MC14.”

      Difficult to see how the Inspector will not grant the Appeal. But you never know, we will find out in a few months.

  2. An Appeal has to consider the reasons for refusal. From what I can see, the reasons for refusal were not supported by the Officers who have now to try and show they were just having an off day, with the expert witnesses for UKOG reminding them of their previous positions. Will be an interesting exercise in justifying a change of position to the Inspector. If that is not possible, this could be expensive. Some transfers are.

    Goal posts can not be moved. Otherwise every planning application for anything would be refused on the basis that something just might turn up. The planning process is supposed to be fair, to both sides. There is no UDI and has to be based upon planning law.

  3. What a waste of public money this was refused Despite recommendation’s from the councils own planning department. why employ experts’ then allow (edited by moderator) to just ignore them. ?

    • No Martin I prefer it to take time and come to the right decision, surely it was you that said it was a rubber stamp?

  4. May have been Shirley, but not me, Jono.

    I never try and second guess planning issues, or courts. They are a law unto themselves. Boom, boom!

  5. Any person can raise an objection on any planning policy.
    Waverly bourough council have tried the scatter gun approach and listed about 50 policies.

    However, they have to argue them. As an example highways. You have to prove there will be a SEVERE impact on the highway network, not just an impact.

    So Dunsfold village is being constructed and that will mean about 15 HGVs per hour (day time) for five years, that’s about a mile away.

    In comparison construction of the well site might generate 15 per day? Peak. For a week.
    Then mobilization day , 10-15 trucks early morning, then during drilling & testing phase 5 might be a brisk day.

    Dunsfold village was overturned at planning inquiry on highways.

    If you wanted to argue climate change , you needed to register as a section 6 group, raise £130k+ Hire a senior barrister with a track record. And a team of experts. And you might need to revisit the Paris climate change agreement and move the date from 2050 to 2022. You would need quite a few elected representatives ( a majority )

    Also …

    Remove the word TRANSITION and replace it with the phrase COLD TURKEY…

  6. Funny how people like you Tony Seaton will laud the benefits of oil and gas when really all you want is to profit from what you all thought was easy money. How is that going so far ? [Edited by moderator]

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