Published Wednesday, 24 June 2020
Waverley Borough Council is urging Surrey County Council’s planning committee to consider the strong community opposition and refuse an application to drill for oil and gas at Loxley Well in Dunsfold.
Waverley objected to the UK Oil and Gas Limited (UKOG) application, which is due to be determined at a virtual planning meeting on Monday 29 June, in the strongest terms, following the council’s first community Listening Panel in July last year. The panel saw 21 local residents and community groups highlight numerous concerns with the plans.
Waverley’s own submission to Surrey’s consultation raised issues including a lack of risk assessments relating to the release of extremely toxic hydrogen sulphide gas, the loss of ancient woodland, impacts on protected species and other local wildlife and the detrimental impact on the landscape and adjacent area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB).
Councillor Steve Williams, Waverley Borough Council Portfolio Holder for Environment and Sustainability, said: “When we learnt of the recommendation that councillors should approve this application, we were very disappointed. We were also very concerned that councillors are being asked to make a decision on this application without actually visiting the site. In our opinion, a site visit is essential in order to understand the detail of some of the objections.
“This is not what the community wants and their views should absolutely be taken into account.
“We understand that existing government guidance prioritises this type of exploration and that lobbying is needed to encourage them to change outdated regulations too. But we are also asking Surrey to take a stand for the overall good of the community and for the environment. Drilling for oil at Dunsfold is completely incompatible with the climate emergency, which has been declared by Waverley Borough Council, Surrey County Council and by central government. Furthermore, UKOG have refused to be specific about their drilling methodology and have refused to rule out acid fracturing - a technique which carries serious risks to the environment.”
Waverley’s consultation response also highlighted that the rural lanes around the site are wholly unsuitable and unsafe for the high volume of heavy goods and industrial vehicles expected.
The council also expressed concern that UKOG did not appear to have the funds to pay for reinstatement of the site. This means that if oil is not found in commercially viable quantities at the site, the company could simply walk away, effectively transferring liability for clean-up costs to the local community.
“Councillor Williams added: “UKOG have so far refused to post a bond that would only be repaid on full restoration of the site.
“There are so many serious issues with this planning application that we believe if it were approved, it would lead to irreversible harm to our environment and our local communities.”