Council leaders are due to decide next week whether to take court action against gas drilling near a village in Surrey.
Last month, the housing minister, Stuart Andrew, overturned Surrey County Council’s refusal of planning permission for exploration by UK Oil & Gas plc (UKOG) at Loxley, near Dunsfold.
Now, an opponent of the scheme, Waverley Borough Council, is considering whether to bring a challenge at the High Court against Mr Andrew’s ruling.
The borough’s executive of senior councillors is holding a special meeting on Monday (18 July 2022), just a day before the deadline for a challenge.
A report for the meeting described the potential consequences of the government ruling as “significant”.
It said gas exploration could have impacts on climate change, the environment, landscape, road safety and local businesses.
The report also said:
“Waverley Borough Council has received legal advice that outlines that there are grounds for legal challenge and the potential for success”.
This advice has not been published. The press and public are likely to be excluded when it is discussed.
If the meeting backs a legal challenge, councillors will also vote on spending £13,500 needed to register the case at the High Court.
The court may refuse permission to bring a challenge. If this happens, the borough risks paying legal costs for the government and UKOG.
Waverley Borough Council was a Rule 6 party at the public inquiry into the Loxley scheme in July and August 2021. This allowed the borough to call and cross-examine witnesses. UKOG was also opposed at the inquiry by Surrey County Council and local residents.
The borough’s executive comprises 10 councillors. They include the leader of the council, Paul Follows, and the deputy, Peter Clark. The council is controlled by a partnership of Farnham Residents and Liberal Democrats.
In approving the Loxley proposal, Mr Andrew said there would be a “significant level of landscape and visual impact” but the effects would be short term. The impact on local businesses would be “moderate, Mr Andrew said. There would not be any “significant adverse impacts” on road safety, he said.
Monday 18 July 2022, 1pm, council chamber, Waverley Borough Council offices, The Burys, Godalming, Surrey. Link to agenda