Surrey County Council’s recent decision to refuse an application for oil and gas exploration in Dunsfold has been ruled invalid.
Councillors recently voted to refuse plans by UK Oil & Gas (UKOG) to drill and test vertical and sidetrack wells in Dunsfold, despite an approval recommendation from council officers.
Multiple problems experienced during what was the first remote session of the Surrey County Council planning committee have now resulted in the refusal decision being ruled invalid.
Councillors will now have to consider the application again.
During the online planning committee, the video feed dropped out repeatedly and one committee member could not be heard.
A new planning committee date of 17th September has been pencilled in to hear the application again.
Paul Evans, Surrey County Council Monitoring Officer, explained there was:
a significant likelihood that the irregularities arising from the technical difficulties at the meeting on 29 June 2020 render the resolution to refuse invalid and would render any notice of refusal unlawful.
The most appropriate and fairest course of action is to take the application back to committee. This is what the Council has decided to do.
In the circumstances, the Council will in due course resubmit the application to the Planning and Regulatory Committee to be redetermined afresh with full entitlement given to members of the public and the applicant to make or remake their statements orally and with full provision for debate by members.
A spokesperson for UKOG said:
We welcome the chance to restate why the low-impact Loxley project is of material local and national economic importance, is fully compliant with Net Zero, and presents minimal local business, local highway and environmental impacts.
We trust that the 17 September re-run will result in a decision fully commensurate with the facts presented, natural law and fair democratic process.
A spokesperson for Protect Dunsfold, which opposes UKOG’s plans, said:
Obviously we would prefer that this decision had stood but it is clear from the statement issued by Surrey that this has been referred back on legal advice because of technical problems on the day.
We have every reason to expect that the Committee reaches the same decision for the same planning policy reasons when it is referred back to Committee and we see no reason why it shouldn’t do so.