The Good Law Project announced this morning it was supporting the community group, Protect Dunsfold, in its bid to challenge a government decision to allow exploratory drilling for gas on the edge of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
Last month, Mr Andrew overrode two refusals of consent by Surrey County Council for the site at Loxley, near Dunsfold, south of Guildford.
The minister admitted the scheme would cause ‘a significant level of landscape and visual impact’, but still gave it the go-ahead.
Protect Dunsfold hopes to challenge the decision at the High Court on the grounds that:
● the Secretary of State did not give adequate weight to the greenhouse gas impacts of the project and its impact on climate change;
● the benefits versus the impacts of the analysis were not properly assessed.
● the Secretary of State did not give adequate weight to conserving and enhancing the scenic beauty of the proposed site, which borders on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
The Good Law Project’s support comes in the week of record high temperatures across the UK and a High Court ruling that the government’s net zero strategy is unlawful.
Jo Maugham, director of Good Law Project, said:
“We have some questions. Why, in the aftermath of the hottest day ever, are we wanting to dig up more fossil fuels? Why are we doing it next to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty? And why is Government afraid to let the people of Surrey make their own decisions about what works for their community? We are proud to stand side by side with Protect Dunsfold.”
Sarah Godwin, of Protect Dunsfold Limited, said:
“Protect Dunsfold has fought consistently for the past three years to represent the concerns of those most impacted by UKOG’s application for exploratory drilling.
Neither local nor national interest is served by imposing a project harmful to one of the nation’s most sensitive landscapes by inflicting such industrial activity whilst brushing the environmental consequences of continued fossil fuel exploration under the rug. The muddled logic of the Secretary of State’s decision speaks volumes whilst riding roughshod over local democracy and policy. We are delighted to be challenging the decision with the full support of the GLP and our expert advocacy team.”
Ricardo Gama, at Leigh Day, the solicitors acting for Protect Dunsfold Limited, said:
“This important case will determine whether the government’s approach to assessing the greenhouse gas, landscape and other impacts of hydrocarbon development such as this was lawful, particularly given the sensitive location of the site in close proximity to the Surrey Hills AONB. Our clients hope to overturn the government decision as they believe it sets a damaging precedent for other similar developments.”
The government’s decision to grant planning permission for the Loxley site was strongly criticised locally.
The local MP, Jeremy Hunt, objected in a letter to the then communities secretary, Michael Gove:
“I cannot see how this site has any role to play in our future energy supply needs…In short it will create enormous disruption and environmental damage for little if any economic benefit.”
His arguments were countered by Stephen Sanderson, the chief executive of UKOG.
The Good Law Project aims to crowdfund £30,000 in 30 days to support funding in the case.
Waverley Borough Council has also applied to the court to challenge the government’s decision.
DrillOrDrop has invited UK Oil & Gas to comment on the challenges to its planning permission.