The government has refused costs to UK Oil & Gas plc in its successful appeal over gas exploration near Dunsfold in Surrey.
The company had sought undisclosed costs against Surrey County Council, which refused planning permission for the Loxley gas site, against the advice of officials.
UKOG won the appeal after a public inquiry and was granted planning permission earlier this month (June 2022).
But the company’s bid for costs has been turned down by the housing minister, Stuart Andrew, on the recommendation of the inquiry inspector.
UKOG had argued that Surrey County Council acted unreasonably in its case that operation of the Loxley risked highway safety. This meant UKOG incurred unnecessary or wasted expense, the company said. It also accused the council of using weak and flawed evidence to support its case.
The council countered that the refusal was supported by expert evidence that the proposed highway arrangements gave “proper cause for concern”. The views expressed at the public inquiry were both “reasonable and substantiated”, the council said.
In a formal decision, Mr Andrew decided:
“a partial award of costs against Surrey County Council, on grounds of ‘unreasonable behaviour’, is not justified in the particular circumstances. The application is therefore refused.”
The inspector, Mike Robins, had stated:
“A challenge that a Council has found against the advice of their officers is no basis for an award of costs; what has to be shown is that the Council have not then justified and substantiated their continued defence of that reason.”
Mr Robins said he did not consider it unreasonable that councillors, with their local knowledge, had concerns about the proposed traffic management issues at the site.
He also said he did not consider the council’s approach to highway safety was unreasonable. He said:
“As a result there would have been no wasted expense on dealing with this matter”.
UKOG has six weeks to challenge the costs decision.
- Mr Andrew was acting in behalf of the communities secretary, Michael Gove, who recused himself from the decision because the site is near his Surrey Heath constituency.