Surrey County Council yesterday rejected a planning application from UK Oil & Gas to drill for oil in Dunsfold.
Members of the Surrey County Council planning committee voted 6-5 in favour of a motion to reject the application.
In turning down the application from UK Oil & Gas, councillors went against the recommendation of planning officers.
The grounds for refusal, agreed by 9-1, were that the need for the scheme had not been demonstrated and that the adverse impacts of the scheme on highways, noise, lighting and air quality would not be significant, contrary to local planning policy.
UK Oil & Gas wants to open a new drilling site near Dunsfold, despite widespread opposition from local people.
In a statement, campaign group Protect Dunsfold said:
Councillors rejected officers’ suggestions that everything objected to was either taken care of or would be mitigated – be it highways safety, loss of local business incomes, destruction of rural environment.
We must applaud the councillors who showed they had listened to the valid concerns put before them and were prepared to take a stand and show that the Surrey County Council climate change strategy actually does have importance, as do the lives of local people.
Maybe 2020 really will see the start of fresh innovative thinking at Surrey County Council.
Ahead of the planning committee, planning officers recommended approval for the scheme, despite acknowledging the proposed drilling site is in a sensitive landscape, and the proposals would result in a more industrialised feel to the local area with an adverse effect on local businesses.
A statement from UKOG following the refusal said:
We are obviously disappointed by Surrey County Council’s refusal of planning consent for our Loxley-1 appraisal project.
Unfortunately, the precise reason or reasons for refusal and why the Planning Officer’s recommendation was overturned, remain unclear, which is less than ideal.
The general structure and conduct [of the meeting] also opens up further questions on the validity of the decision. We also note that the Environment Agency granted the scheme a full environmental permit on 26 June covering all environmental aspects of the proposed scheme.
Furthermore, we note that the meeting’s main discussion centred around a possible highways issue regarding the suitability of the Dunsfold road adjoining the site to accommodate the envisaged traffic flows. However, the County Highways and Planning Officers supported this aspect of the application, stating that the traffic mitigation plan would permit safe use of the road during operations.
As UKOG made clear at the meeting, we believe Loxley is a material regional natural gas resource, which could have made, and could still make, a timely contribution to Surrey and the UK’s recovery from the Covid-related economic downturn, something that has affected everyone.
It is particularly disappointing that such a net zero compliant project, which could have been used to generate clean hydrogen fuel for the UK, has had this setback.
“The Company is carefully considering its position. However, it is likely that we will appeal the decision via the planning inspectorate.”
If the application is approved on appeal, UK Oil & Gas will drill vertical and sidetrack wells on their farmland site which sits a mile outside of Dunsfold village.
The proposed drilling site is a short distance from Dunsfold Park, which has planning permission to create a new town, initially with 1,800 homes.
Their wells would explore for gas in the Portland sandstone and oil in the deeper Kimmeridge limestone.
The application is for a three year period, with four phases of work, starting with 14 weeks of access and well site construction work.
UK Oil & Gas would then drill, test and appraise using a 38m high rig, for 60 weeks.