Oiling the wheels of justice on Surrey Hills
The High Court legal challenge into oil drilling at Dunsfold has been confirmed for June 8. The case will examine planning permission granted for exploratory drilling of £123million of oil near the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The UK Oil and Gas (UKOG) was originally refused planning permission to search for fossil fuels at Loxley Well in Dunsfold in December 2020 by Surrey County Council’s planning committee.
UKOG appealed in June 2022 after a public inquiry and was given the green light by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, led by Surrey Heath MP Michael Gove.
Almost immediately, Waverley Borough Council challenged the appeal decision in the High Court with £13,000 set aside for the legal challenge.
In March this year anti-fracking campaigners celebrated the news that the case would be heard in the High Court after being granted a judicial review.
The June 8 date was pencilled in for the hearing, and this week it was set in stone after some discussion over potentially moving the date.
The case has been picked up by the Good Law Project and is being challenged on two fronts. The first, they argue, relates to the “inconsistency in decision-making by the Secretary of State” who approved Dunsfold drilling the same day he refused a comparable site in Ellesmere Port over greenhouse gas emissions. The second argument relates to the drilling site being on the edge of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and national policy requires planning decisions to give great weight to “conserving and enhancing landscape and scenic beauty” in AONBs.
Good Law Project legal manager, Jennine Walker said: “Let’s be clear: exploiting our natural landscape for fossil fuels should be a thing of the past and is completely at odds with our crucial efforts to reach net-zero. This is why we are delighted to be supporting the next stage of Protect Dunsfold’s legal challenge which seeks to overturn the Government’s scandalous decision to overrule the local council and give the green light to a gas exploration scheme in the Surrey Hills.
“The High Court recently confirmed Protect Dunsfold’s case is arguable and we now look forward to the hearing in June at which we hope the Judge will overturn the Government’s scandalous decision”.
MP Jeremy Hunt said the plans should be “formally shelved” altogether.
A crowdfunding page has also been launched for those looking to support the legal challenge.
Surrey MPs oppose each other on drills in the hills
The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Drilling… ?
Fractious Court case anticipated
Image: Residents strongly campaigned against an exploratory well (Image: Surrey Advertiser)