The route to a proposed gas exploration site in Surrey is unsuitable for the large lorries needed to deliver equipment, a public inquiry heard today.
UK Oil & Gas wants to construct a drilling site at Loxley near the village of Dunsfold.
It proposes to route heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) along Dunsfold Road and then onto the single track lane, High Loxley Road, to the site entrance.
County Councillors refused planning permission in November 2020. They said UKOG had not demonstrated that the highway network was an appropriate standard or that the traffic would not have a significant adverse impact on highway safety.
At an appeal hearing today, Jenny Wigley QC, for the county council, said:
“There has been an evolution of measures by UKOG to address the inherent problem of HGVs turning left into High Loxley Road without blocking the carriageway. The road is not of an appropriate standard to accommodate that sort of traffic.”
She said UKOG’s proposed measures included the need for:
- Widening of High Loxley Road to accommodate HGVs and other traffic
- Changes to the junction of Dunsfold Road and High Loxley Road
- Temporary traffic lights and road signs at the junction
- Banksmen to control traffic on High Loxley Road when large vehicles are visiting the site
- 3-point turns by abnormal loads to enter High Loxley Road
Ms Wigley told the inquiry:
“Taking them all together it shows how inherently unsuitable this location is for this type of traffic.”
The inquiry also heard that HGVs would have to cross the centre road markings to navigate two 90-degree bends on Dunsfold Road.
The council’s highway department had not objected to UKOG’s proposals and planning officers recommended approval of the company’s planning application.
UKOG’s transport witness, Steven Windass, told the inquiry:
“I do not consider that there are any raised concerns that have not already been reviewed by SCC [Surrey County Council] highways, with any implications accepted, subject to suitable agreed mitigation.
“I am still of the view that sufficient evidence has been submitted to demonstrate that the proposals would not have a significant adverse impact on highway safety.”
“My professional opinion is still also that sufficient evidence has been submitted to demonstrate the suitability of the proposed HGV access route.”
He also said:
“I consider the development would not be expected to cause a detrimental, significant or severe level of disruption.
But Ms Wigley, for the council, raised other highways concerns including:
- Impact of site HGVs on local roads
- Five recommendations in a safety audit that were not accepted by UKOG
- Risks on two 90-degree bends on Dunsfold Road at Painshill Farm and Stovolds Hill
- Damage-only accidents at Pratts Corner
- Potential failure of equipment required by the traffic management proposals
- Drivers not complying with the traffic controls
What vehicles would visit UKOG’s site?
The inquiry heard that on 56 weeks of the UKOG’s proposal there would be a maximum of 10 daily HGV visits (10 in and 10 out, or 20 movements).
Mr Windass was unable to say what proportion of HGVs visiting the proposed site would be articulated lorries. But he said some would be the smaller or rigid types, such as concrete mixers or tipper trucks.
Ms Wigley said a significant proportion would be articulated lorries.
Traffic counts on Dunsfold Road for a planning application for High Billinghurst Farm had identified nine articulated HGVs west-bound and seven east-bound, she said:
“If all 10 of the [UKOG] HGV visits were articulated, it would be more than a 100% increase on the existing situation”.
“We don’t have the breakdown of HGVs”, Mr Windass replied.
David Elvin, QC, for UKOG, said the traffic counts should include smaller HGVs. If they were added, there would 1,296 HGVs west-bound and 1,521 east-bound.
Ms Wigley said some of UKOG’s response to the safety audit had down-played the risk identified by the auditor.
Mr Windass said UKOG’s proposals had been redesigned to take account of issues raised by auditor.
It was not unusual, he said, for a company not to accept recommendations of a safety auditor. They were not decision-makers, he said.
He told the inquiry that measures had been taken to improve safety on Dunsfold Road. The speed limit had been reduced to 40mph on the bends and a non-skid surface added.
He also said the proposed traffic controls had been independently assessed and would be regularly checked and maintained.
Concerns were raised by residents about safety at the junction of Dunsfold Road and High Loxley Road at Pratts Corner.
One resident told the inquiry there were about two accidents each month and his front wall had been destroyed six times.
Asked whether he or the county highways department had contacted the resident, Mr Windass said “no”. He questioned the accuracy of the accident numbers and said damage-only accidents should not be given much weight in decision-making. Mr Windass said the two-injury collisions in the past five years at the junction did not indicate a problem.
On the first day of the inquiry, local resident Ashley Herman said:
“I also have legal advice that the access to the site required by UKOG would include crossing over common land and no one has produced evidence to counter that advice.”
UKOG disputed this and the county council has not raised it in evidence.
The inspector, Mike Robins, asked UKOG to provide evidence to clarify.
On Tuesday 3 August, the inquiry heard that highway works proposed by UKOG would not need to use common land.
- The inquiry resumes at 9.30am on Tuesday 3 August 2021 with highway evidence from Surrey County Council