The company behind plans to explore for gas near a Surrey village has threatened to sue a senior local councillor for libel.
UK Oil & Gas plc (UKOG) has accused Waverley Borough Council’s executive member, Steve Williams, of corporate defamation over a statement he made that was used in a local newspaper.
The statement was in a council press release issued last month (8 June 2022). This responded to the government decision to grant planning permission for UKOG’s gas exploration proposals at Loxley, near Dunsfold.
Cllr Williams, the portfolio holder for environment and sustainability at Waverley, was quoted expressing his disappointment at the decision and his concerns about the implications of granting planning permission.
Waverley’s response was reported by the Haslemere Herald, BBC News, the Independent and other media outlets.
UKOG’s solicitors, Hill Dickinson, sent a letter of claim dated five days later to Cllr Williams alleging his statements to the Haslemere Herald were defamatory.
Cllr Williams has rejected the allegations and made a statement defending his comments. Solicitors acting for the council have formally responded to UKOG’s legal team. The council press release is still online.
UKOG also sent a letter of claim to the Haslemere Herald. The paper has responded to the allegations and offered UKOG the opportunity to put its case in print but said it has heard no more.
This is not the first time UKOG has threatened libel action against local people.
The Loxley site is in the same licence area (PEDL234) as the UKOG wellsite at Broadford Bridge, near Billingshurst.
In May 2017, UKOG accused Keep Billingshurst Frack Free of making defamatory comments in a newsletter.
DrillOrDrop asked UKOG whether it was pursuing its action against Cllr Williams and the Herald, or any other media outlets. We’ll update this article with any response from the company.