“Extraordinary” Dunsfold drilling plan takes UK in wrong direction – ex Tory leadership contender

The former Conservative leadership contender, Jeremy Hunt, said today it was “extraordinary” that the UK, with its net zero target, was even thinking about plans to drill for gas at Dunsfold in Surrey.

Jeremy Hunt MP with Waverly Borough Council leader, Paul Follows (left) and
environment portfolio holder Steve Williams (right). Photo: DrillOrDrop

Speaking at a opposition demonstration near the proposed exploration site, he said the scheme by UK Oil & Gas (UKOG) would take the country in “exactly the wrong direction”.

Mr Hunt, the local MP and former foreign secretary, lost out to Boris Johnson in the 2019 Tory leadership contest.

He spent about half an hour at the demonstration, which the organisers said aimed to show that large heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) would not be able to manoeuvre around a tight junction without encroaching on common land.

Jeremy Hunt MP speaking in Dunsfold, 8 January 2022. Video: DrillOrDrop

Speaking to a crowd of more than 50 villagers, he said:

“It is absolutely extraordinary after COP26 in Glasgow that we are even thinking about drilling for oil and gas in this area. And you can see, by the huge number of people here representing all the local political parties, that we are completely united in our opposition.

“We are opposed on both local environmental grounds because of the impact the huge lorries and HGVs will have – and you’re about to see a human carbon neutral demonstration of what that might be.

“But we are also against it because we know that just under a third of all emissions are caused by generating electricity for human use through non-sustainable purposes. And that is why we have to get off the habit of using oil and gas for our everyday electricity and this is taking us in exactly the wrong direction.”

The proposed drill site, also known as Loxley, was refused twice by Surrey County Council in 2020 and went to a public inquiry in 2021.

Last week, it was announced that the communities’ secretary, Michael Gove, also a Surrey MP, would make the final decision on the scheme.

Mr Hunt had this advice for ministers:

“Listen to what people in the local area are saying and also what the government itself is saying about its environmental objectives. We’ve got to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035 on 1990 levels. This is going to take us in the wrong direction.”

Jeremy Hunt speaking at Dunsfold, 8 January 2022. Video: DrillOrDrop

Local Lib Dem, Conservative and Green Party politicians joined environmental campaigners and villagers at the Pratts Corner junction for the demonstration.

If the site is approved, lorries would have to navigate the junction to reach the access track off a narrow country lane.

Opponents said today it was impossible to do this without at least part of an HGV encroaching on common land on the verges.

UKOG document submitted to the public inquiry, which opponents say shows that lorries will have to encroach on common land to navigate the junction. Source: public inquiry documents

They stood with their toes on the edge of the verge as a life-size simulation of an HGV attempted to navigate the junction.

Simulation of a heavy goods vehicle navigating Pratts Corner junction near Dunsfold. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Waverley Borough Council, which is responsible for the common land, has said it would not give permission to site vehicles to cross the common land.

Its leader, Paul Follows, told DrillOrDrop:

“If the application is approved the council is prepared to fight to protect the common land verges at Dunsfold.”

He said the council would install cameras at the junction and he expected local people would monitor traffic to the site.

The council’s environment portfolio holder, Steve Williams, described the demonstration as “a magnificent event”:

“It demonstrated that it is not possible for HGVs, such as those used by UKOG, to get to the site that they propose to drill without encroaching on Waverley common land.”

Photo: DrillOrDrop

Referring to a slogan from World War 1 and the Spanish Civil War, he said his message to UKOG was

“They shall not pass”.

The landowner of the proposed site, Ashley Ward, told DrillOrDrop lorries containing 44 cattle had successfully been around the junction onto High Loxley Road. He said the UKOG scheme included plans to improve the Pratts Corner junction.

UKOG told the public inquiry that the HGV route to the proposed site was suitable and the scheme would not adversely affect highway safety.

DrillOrDrop invited UKOG to comment on the demonstration. This article will be updated with any response.

17 replies »

  1. I wouldn’t give much attention to the comments of the past health secretary and “so proclaimed saviour of the NHS”, what a donut!!
    Where do you think you get your treasury monies to fund the NHS mr hunt!!
    The North Sea alone has contributed over £500 billion in tax receipts to the treasury in the last 40 years alone, please tell me another UK industry which has achieved ££ as much!!

      • Actually I think we could do without the NHS altogether. I lived in Holland for a bit and if my GP thought I needed to go to hospital, he sent me there that day. I know another person living in a European country. His GP sent him to hospital, where they had a corridor of Consultants waiting for people with complaints to walk in their door. The problem with the NHS is that it is funded by taxation and no government wants to raise taxes if they wish to win an up and coming election, so they starve the NHS for cash. Thus to a government patients in hospital are a loss of cash. In private medicine parties are cash and the more they have the better . Thus if you have a hospital in your town that is finding it difficult to handle its work load, then a rival will step in and build another hospital to soak up the surplus. The media are always clouding the issue by making sentimental comments about the marvellous NHS . Presumably they think it is right to wait 12 months to even see a surgeon, let alone be operated on by one.

        • The other option, Vernon, is to have a huge income from oil and gas, like Norway, and then have dollops of spare money to invest in health, or whatever.

          Perhaps in UK, if all those NHS managers sorted out things like:

          The large numbers of patients not discharged because the pharmacy has not supplied the meds. to allow the patient to leave? Hospital transport returning the next day costs £800.

          Nurses who are told they have to take leave. Do so. Then work for an agency, often to do the same work in the same place, but with much higher pay.

          Turning people away from a surgery with a cut wrist and sending to a hospital 15 miles away, without even looking at the wound, even whilst a nurse walked past! Would that happen at a vets?

          Then, the fact there were not large dollops of cash would not be such an issue.

    • The thing is we still need gas and we are going to need it for many years yet to come. You do not help save the planet by sourcing gas abroad, you are still burning it when it gets here , so you have merely transferred the source. Moreover, tankers bringing gas to the UK can burn up to 300 tons of oil a day just to get here . The worse scenario is what we are experiencing where countries have become dependent upon other countries, Russia for example, who regard their gas as a political weapon. As for climate warming, we are probably speeding it up at present, but historically the planet has always moved from ice ages to warm and back again . It will probably continue to do that way after we have died out

      • Careful, Vernon. All that common sense may be too much!

        Solar activity and population growth will overtake the issue of climate change, and in the foreseeable future.

        Will there be any scientists left, who have not wedded themselves to climate change, to address such?

        On the basis that transport emissions of fossil fuel have to be addressed by denying current arithmetic, physics and the laws of demand and supply, to try and justify “extraordinary”, it already looks as if that is impossible.

        Although, I did note some interesting research into seaweed farming to help feed the 10 billion world population that is expected. So, there are still signs that some are focusing upon other issues. They could even make some progress if it wasn’t for others turning cereals and sugar into fuel for vehicles, and by so doing, increase the cost of food to the billions! Many of whom can not afford the heating OR the eating, as a result.

        It is a funny old world-until the sun consumes it.

  2. More importantly, Eli-Goth, ” We’ve got to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035 on 1990 levels. This is going to take us in the wrong direction.”

  3. The North Sea is part of the old polluting economy. There is a better way. No new fossil fuel sources are needed. Keep it in the ground and use renewable energy to build a better future.

    • All very well but even the European Union are now classing gas as a green fuel.

      Why does Jeremy Hund beg to differ apart from it being in his back yard and fears of losing votes.

      Wait till the new gas bills arrive and constituents are knocking on MP’s doors demanding the action that can keep the cost of living stable for the many not the few.

      How long will he hold his seat then. His main message seems to be that he draws cross party support from his actions!

  4. So, we are waiting for the oil and gas industries to step up and ensure that their actitivies are 100% carbon neutral. How about that. Go on, finance and build, at your own expence, Carbon Capture plants that will totally offset what you are planning to do to the environment by way of CO2. No? I thought not, nobody is prepared to foot those bills, so what you plan is just more fuel to the fire of destroying our future and the future of other creatures on this planet. Your industry has know for decades how much damage its activities do, but of course you fail again and again to take any responsibility for your activities. Everyone knows this. The time to hesistate is through – no time to wallow in the mire. Change now we we just cannot lose and our planet become a funeral pyre.

    • CJR

      Fine words but you forget both the need for the transition and any continued use after 2050 and the benefits of indigenous oil and gas to reduce the UK emissions both through lower import emissions and the use of fuel with lower carbon emissions than imported fuels.

      These are just two of the many benefits of indigenous oil and gas production in the UK over imports.

      It looks as if the not in my back yard brigade don’t want to play on a level playing field as the fuels are needed one way or another to run the country.

    • CJR-your thought not may be your opinion, but if you delved a little deeper you would find that not everyone knows this. The opposite is the reality.

      CCS is underway, all colours of hydrogen are becoming available, and the funding stream for such development is clear. Maybe not to everyone, but for those who wish to become informed, it is. (Turquoise hydrogen could be interesting. It follows a proposal that I noticed from both Oxford and Cambridge scientists some while ago.)

      The indication that Mr. Hunt is in the not to everyone camp will be his to defend as more and more voters become informed. Hydrogen does not take us in the wrong direction. I realise Mr. Hunt is no longer a Minister, but he should be aware of the decisions that are being taken by the Government, and the reasons why. I noticed he was not present during last weeks debate brought by another Tory MP, where there was cross party support for increased resilience of UK oil and gas supplies in the face of Russian policies regarding energy supply. When he was a Minister, what was the degree of energy transition within the NHS?

      Maybe Mr. Hunt will be defending the green levies that are applied to UK energy bills, over the coming months? Good luck with that. I suspect it will be difficult to keep that cat in the bag, having just seen a headline that tax payers are moving against tax increases as they face cost of living increases-and the major tax increase is actually for the NHS and Social Care! Just at a time when borrowing costs are rising and even the existing National Debt is costing families more and more.

  5. Well said Jeremy Hunt. The old transition and gas is green arguments do not stand up to scientific fact. All these arguments have reappeared because of global fuel price hikes. And the usual fossil fuel geopolitical shenanigans. The sooner we are rid of the fossil fuel geopolitics the better.
    The short term economic arguments are just that, short term. The cost of the impacts caused by climate change will be long term and dwarf what we face now. This is a sticking plaster action when what the world must do is to invest, incentivise, innovate and deliver true green, technology and energy.

  6. So the resistance to take the necessary steps along the path to net zero and the wish to be part of the problem rather than the solution continues in Surrey.

    • Interesting approach by Mr. Hunt to be following the Lib Dem strategy of support for conflicting policies between constituencies, and contrary to national policy.

      Has he not noticed, when it comes to a GE, then such a strategy results in a P45-locally?

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