Wasn’t it former Tory Planning Portfolio holder Brian Adams who claimed recently that listening to the public would only raise unrealistic expectations?
A panel made up of the council’s new guard – almost completely switched off their microphones and did the unimaginable… they just LISTENED.
And the public thanked them for doing just that – listening – and urged them to object to the mineral extraction authority saying Surrey County Council holds the key that could unlock a catastrophe.
The Listening Panel heard from neighbours fearful of what UGOC’s oil and gas exploration in Dunsfold could do to their lives, their businesses, and their livelihoods. The heard accounts from residents whose lives and their health had already been impacted upon by drilling in Horley – and in West Sussex. They heard evidence from financial experts who painted a grim picture of the parlous financial state of exploration companies who ignore planning rules, planning conditions, and are, in the main – a law unto themselves in their pursuit of…
A highly informed and eloquent group of residents and organisations from Waverley and beyond – provided the First Listening Exercise – with first-hand accounts of the damage already caused by oil and gas exploration in other parts of Surrey. They also predicted the consequences of what one described as the ……
Alfold and Dunsfold ~Parish Council representatives spoke of the massive impact exploration could have on those two villages. Villages soon to see a new garden village for 1,800 homes at Dunsfold Airfield in their midst.
Ashley Hurman, A neighbouring farmer spoke of the devastation that could be caused to animals and an organic craft brewery that used water from natural wells in its production for users including the armed forces. It was just 226m of the proposed well. Wedding venue owner Tom Gordon spoke of the damaged that could be caused to his business, where reservations were sometimes made three-years in advance and events were held in the open at High Billinghurst Farm.
Others spoke of the confusion around the two applications made by UCOG and another in Alfold all hiding behind vague descriptions of the methods it would use – which is in effect – Fracking!
Environmental groups including Friends of the Earth – Patrick Haveron; Extinction Rebellion Chris Neale; SW Surrey Labour Party Natasha Fletcher; Campaign for The Preservation of Rural England (CPRE) Chris Lindesay all spoke of the catastrophic consequences to the environment from the unrelenting search for minerals.
Dunsfold resident Melanie Shown highlighted the traffic dangers, for walkers, horse riders and cyclists and also spoke up for the travelling community who lived nearby – and who had no voice.
Duns fold publican Terence O’Rourke questioned the financial security of companies saying that, should permission be allowed, should be forced to put up a bond of at least £9m to restore the land.
That money – all £9m should be paid before a spade hits the ground – if not, you can be sure – we are on our own. The costs could land in the laps of the local community.”
Jennifer Condit questioned the viability of the companies – whose risk register (all of seven pages) provided for investors revealed some startling facts. Risks they described as “minimal” including – oil spills; blowouts etcetera – and no insurance…
“I have never seen a list of risks like this – not in my 30 years in the finance industry.”
Alison Canton from Godalming said the area under consideration was “unique” and it would be damaged for her children, and her children’s children. “This is just about making money.” What about the planet – and climate change?
Matt Phelps asked? Does Waverley Council want to be remembered as the council who opened up the Weald for drilling?
It was pointed out by the chairman Green Party’s Cllr Steve Williams that Waverley could only comment on the application – it was not the determining authority.
A clip of his summing up will be the subject of another post.
But it was Lisa Scott from Horley who hammered in the final nail as she gave a graphic account of being out running and almost fainting with breathlessness after being affected by the Hydrochloric Acid during drilling activities at Horsehill – in the “Gatwick Cluster.”
“It took me almost three months to recover. Family businesses had been ruined, homes cannot be sold; livestock damaged and injured; fields flooded and the community broken!”
She said planning conditions had consistently been flouted, pedestrian – ignored – cyclists – ignored – parking restrictions – ignored with lorries rocking up in Tesco’s car park! What had the county council done – nothing!
After wards Waverley’s deputy leader – Paul Follows commented:
A really good first Executive Listening Panel session this evening (considering the Waverley borough council response to plans to drill for fossil fuels at Dunsfold) – Cllr Steve Williams did an excellent job of chairing and thank you for to our officers for arranging and bringing to life the wishes of the new administration to really engage. I am hugely proud to be deputy leader of a council committed to proper engagement and to work with a cross-party executive committed to that direction.
I must say it was very informed, eloquent and respectful participation from everyone and I am more certain than ever that engagement sessions like this are the right thing to do.
We have had plenty of comments from some sources that we shouldn’t ‘raise residents expectations’ but I think this was informative on both sides and I think everyone present understood a bit more about the facts and the process.
This sort of engagement activity will continue.