Councillors to seek legal challenge to Dunsfold gas drilling

A council which opposed drilling for gas near a Surrey village has taken the first step to fight ministerial approval of the scheme.

Meeting of Waverley Borough Council executive, 18 July 2022.

Senior members of Waverley Borough Council voted today to seek a judicial review of last month’s decision to grant planning permission for an exploration site at Loxley, near Dunsfold.

The council’s executive also approved funding to cover initial costs at the High Court.

Cllr Paul Follows, chair of the Waverley executive, hinted that costs could be shared with local organisations and other councils.

“It is absolutely my hope, without breaking any confidences with other parties, that we will not be alone in this endeavour going forward.”

The unanimous vote came hours before the deadline for appeals against the decision by the then housing minister, Stuart Andrew.

Waverley Borough Council had objected to the scheme by UK Oil & Gas (UKOG) because of its impacts on climate, landscape and local businesses.

The executive heard there were grounds for a legal challenge but the details were discussed behind closed doors.

In the public section of the meeting, Cllr Follows described Mr Andrew’s decision as “perverse and disappointing, but not surprising”. He said:

[the decision] “will have significant and intolerable impacts on our local environment, upon our local businesses and is clearly against the wishes of those residents most local to Dunsfold and I believe a clear majority of the residents in Waverley at large.”

Cllr Steve Williams, the portfolio holder for environment and sustainability, said:

“It is ironic that we are meeting in extreme weather conditions, symptomatic of our climate crisis, to discuss a challenge to the decision of the Secretary of State to allow UKOG to continue its quest for more fossil fuels when we need to be moving towards a world of sustainable energy and one of reducing energy consumption, rather than expanding it.t

“I see it as my public duty to reflect the widespread public disquiet over these proposals and support Waverley taking the first step on the road to the proposed judicial review.”

The executive heard that the initial challenge could cost about £13,500. If the High Court refuses Waverley’s request for a judicial review, the council may have to pay a similar level of costs incurred by the communities’ secretary.

  • DrillOrDrop asked UKOG for its reaction to today’s vote. This article will be updated with any response.

18 replies »

  1. Yet again we see central government out of step with both local government and citizens of the UK with regard to the need to take the threat of climate change seriously. Perhaps we’ll have to until Westminster is flooded before they wake up, for it seems the current crop of wannabee Conservative PMs aren’t all in favour of taking it seriously.

  2. What you don’t seem to grasp is the energy has to come from somewhere to enable the country to operate, so if it doesn’t come from here it will have to come from somewhere else( enter mr Putin?) that very nice man will surely help us out,
    The world is not yet ready for a ban on fossil fuels, how will we heat our homes in the near future? No amount of protests and demonstrations will provide an answer, You are saying people will.die in the long term if we don’t ban fossil fuels, i am saying many will die in the near future if they can’t heat their homes in the winter.
    So the answer is work towards your conclusion in a managed way rather than cause even more pollution by stopping traffic with ridiculous protest methods etc.
    And that is what the government is trying to achieve but unfortunately that nice Mr Putin has put a well timed stop to that.
    Most world governments have agreed to a carbon reduction plan but in the light of what is happening In.Ukraine the said plans have been devastated with the sanctions against the cowardly Russians,
    So it seems we will have to change the near term plans whilst still working towards the renewable energy future.
    In conclusion “The impossible takes quite a lot of time and effort, miracles take a little longer

  3. So Steve , can you please explain how UKOG will be finding and producing gas to save those poor folk by next winter ? Or which winter are you talking about? We live in a democracy for the time being and if people want to protest then that is their human right .

    • Indeed. whatever happened to the gazillions of oil from the alleged Gatwick Gusher, now known as the Gatwick Dribbler? All these small onshore sites will not make a noticeable difference to the UK’s oil and gas needs, as regularly reported here with the monthly update on production. Sadly this government has failed to make significant progress on the win-win of targeting energy reduction in our homes.

  4. Malcolm and friends, for your information there is the biggest windfarm in the world currently being constructed offshore at Hornsea ( NE England) there are going to be 250 massive wind turbines adding to the already functioning onshore turbines on that coast.

    They are also going to build a giant battery storage facility to enable the electricity produced at low usage times ( through the night )to be stored and used the next day when demand returns.

    This will mean they will reduce the need for gas powered electricity which i think was a stupid idea (using gas to produce electricity ), but as you people only complain about the problem without considering the time ( and polluting energy ) it takes to correct the situation you make more costly problems by your protestations which by no means affect the government but definitely affect your fellow citizens, but not in your area because you protest somewhere else,

    And finally the wind farm at Hornsea is not in your area so it will not spoil your beautiful countryside where you live because you want wind powered energy but don’t want to have those horrible things near you.

    Change is happening, just you can not see it, why?
    Because it’s not in your area, but it is happening elsewhere and it will benefit you, meanwhile keep using the fossil produced energy you so complain about in your daily lives.

    Think about the poor people of Ukraine, if you need to do something with your spare time why don’t you use it to collect funds to help their life or death situation, which is a real emergency and happening now.

    • Well Malcolm, if your home insulation is not sufficient that is your fault as the homeowner, I have insulated my home at my expense and my effort, if you have time to go protesting you would be better spending that time insulating your home and possibly helping others to do theirs, start up a self insulation charity and your slogan could be, “Hot action makes warmer homes” , you should be able to get some government funding to help the project and there seems to be plenty of supporters who could help with the effort required, just look at all the fundraisers you have at your disposal.I

      Instead of organising mayhem do something constructive for a worthwhile change, as has often been said, ” if you want something doing, do it yourself “

      • Exactly, Steve. Since when is it a Governments responsibility to reduce household energy use? Priti is trying to do that via having less households. Look at the outcry and legal protest that has caused!

        Mind you, it looks as if some Governments may decide to do more this winter, with energy rationing being suggested!

        If it comes to that across Europe, I wonder how voters will react to Governments having to do that?

        My home is well insulated, I also already have blinds to south facing windows that are very helpful to stop carpets fading from sunlight. I didn’t spend money getting to protests or crowd funding those that did. They should sort out their priorities. I don’t mind helping those that can not afford such expenditure, but object when I see their discretionary spending has been spent on things that I have not spent on and don’t agree with.

        Enjoying the nice warm weather. A relief from the news feed about not being able to heat. Watching the trails in the sky as UK citizens jet off to acquire their summer sun tans. Tomorrow cooler, so out to lunch with family, but not today. Probably see more news about gritting/dusting melting roads, and remember that happening when I was on honeymoon 50 years ago. Had we jetted off? Nope, the west coast of Scotland!

  5. Steve , why do you say that nobody likes wind farms near them ? I can see Rampion from my window most days and you know what it doesn’t pollute the water nor produce CO2 , I regularly visit the north east and yes there are plenty of turbines with life happily carrying on around them and nobody being sick from fumes , I’ve been protesting over the years since Balcombe as is my right and yours too if you don’t like windmills but you say we protest in other places? How do you know that ?

    Rampion Offshore Wind Farm

    Rampion Offshore Wind Farm is the first offshore wind farm off the south coast of England.

    It has an installed capacity of 400 megawatts (MW) and will generate almost 1,400 Gigawatt hours (GWh) of power each year. This is equivalent to the amount of electricity used annually by almost 350,000 British homes, or around half the homes in Sussex1.

    The wind farm is located in the English Channel between 13 and 20 kilometres (km) from the Sussex coast, and stretches from East Worthing in the west, to Brighton in the east. It covers an area of 72 square kilometres, which is just larger than the island of Guernsey in the English Channel.

    Rampion Offshore Wind Farm now fully operational and has created around 60 full-time permanent jobs.

    It is being operated and maintained from a purpose-built base at Newhaven Port, and from early in its construction began acting as a catalyst for the regeneration of the port area.

    • And all of that is a waste of time and money when the wind doesn’t blow Jono, so now loads of people will have a nice nuclear power station next to them to allow for that. And, receive the bill for £160B for the “pleasure”. And, then the supplementary one for disposal of the waste-if a solution is found.

      And, how long does it take to build a nuclear power station? Thirty years? Loxley looks pretty rapid by comparison.

      • Martin

        It’s worth pointing out that the £160B for a nuclear programme is not extra expenditure – if we don’t build nuclear stations, we will need to build more gas-powered stations instead.

        The nuclear industry point out that while gas-powered stations are much cheaper to build, they have a design life of 30 years, while a nuclear station has a life of 60 years. The running costs of a nuclear station are also much lower per KWH generated.

        For an (outdated) example of the nuclear industry’s arguments, see

        So perhaps Martin you need to figure out what the extra cost (if any) of the nuclear programme is compared to more gas-powered stations. And then factor in the extra costs of the resulting extreme weather.

        And maybe battery backup will take off, so less nuclear power will be required.

        • Why is it the case that funding for new nuclear is such an issue, then Paul? I believe the answer is pretty straight forward and playing semantics with running costs rather than total costs per KWH generated are really quite insulting. Costs of energy to the consumer from new nuclear are very expensive, cost from gas is far less so in “normal” times. And, there are already gas plants in UK to use product, there are already plans to turn gas into hydrogen if wanted, there are already plans to plonk that hydrogen into cars and into converted domestic gas heating boilers.

          And, how many nuclear power stations have there been built anywhere in the world to budget?

          Unfortunately, UK ducked out of nuclear and now has to play expensive catch up. Meanwhile, the extreme weather is petty evident-in France!

          SMRs hold some potential, but yet untried and un-costed. And still no idea around costs of disposal of waste, and still no security that what happened in Ukraine, USA and Japan would not happen again, with resulting health concerns and the extra costs of clean up.

          • PS:

            Of course there is a reason why the Guardian reported Hinkley Point as a “dreadful deal” behind the world’s most expensive power plant, creating a price of £92.50/MGW, that is now running a year late and £3BN over budget.

    • Jono, you ask why do i say nobody wants windfarms near to them, probably because of all the protests and banners which are erected in the areas concerned, also planning permission has been refused on the grounds of ” spoiling the areas of natural beauty and sightlines of the same
      and affecting wedding venues etc.

      I think that any councils who refuse planning permission of wind turbines should have to pay an extra surcharge to the climate change levy and those who agree to have them should have a reduction.

      And how do i know people protest in other areas, because I’ve seen it on the news at the London and Edinburgh rallies where banners were carried stating the different areas where the protesters and activists were from, and that’s only two examples, there are hundreds more.

      Also the protests which hold up traffic flows cause pollution. Blocking roads, holding up traffic causes more pollution.

      Glueing themselves to motorways, holding up even more traffic, causes even more pollution.

      And finally all the travel to the protests/rallies must cause more pollution than all those previous examples put together.

      Hardly saving the planet is it.

  6. The only reason why people are against this is because it is on their doorstep, and will affect the price of their homes. They don’t care about the environment. We all use fuel. Where do we think it comes from? Exactly! It’s ok if it’s somewhere else but not near you. This drilling will make the landowner a very wealthy man. He is not well liked in his area, which gives people another reason to protest.

    • Absolutely Mel,
      But you do know in today’s society you are not allowed to speak the truth if it might upset someone else if they don’t like what you say.

      And also so many people won’t give the real reason for their selfish complaints so they have to hide behind the climate change banner with exaggerated negativity.

      This government IS taking action as i have pointed out above, and before anyone says it, no i am not a Tory i just say it as i see it.
      But i also realise these things take alot of time to come to fruition but the activists want it done yesterday

  7. Even worse than that, Steve.

    They want “something” done, which is ill defined, doesn’t add up, and often when done, falls apart.

    Such is life.

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