Drill or Drop? ‘Drill’ says Surrey County Council.

Planners back Dunsfold drilling site despite 80% public opposition.

‘Localism’ is finally dead – buried by the county council?

200513 Proposed site entrance SCCOfficials have supported plans by UK Oil & Gas for a new drilling site near the village of Dunsfold despite huge opposition from local people and every local parish and town council in the area.

A report  just published recommends the application be approved by the county council’s planning committee next week.

It acknowledged that the site is in a sensitive landscape and that the scheme would bring a “more industrialised feel” to the area.  There would also be an adverse effect on local businesses.

 

WW No problem there then? Just more traffic, on a road serving a business park at Dunsfold airfield and a new Garden Village just about to be built there!

But officials concluded the impact on the environment and local people would not be significant and would be outweighed by the need for oil and gas.

Concerns about “virtual” committee

The publication of the report has surprised local people. They had expected the decision would be made at the end of June.

Now the application will be decided at Surrey’s first virtual planning committee meeting, conducted online because of coronavirus restrictions, on 21 May.

WW understands councillors will not go on a site visit. Instead, they will be shown drone footage of the proposed site.

A spokesperson for the local campaign group, Protect Dunsfold, said:

200513 View from site to High Billinghurst Farm 2

Application details

UK Oil & Gas (UKOG) is seeking planning permission to drill vertical and sidetrack wells on a 2.3ha farmland site, one mile from the village.

The wells would explore for gas in the Portland sandstone and oil in the deeper Kimmeridge limestone.

The site is just outside the Green Belt and the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

It is part of an Area of Great Landscape Value (AGLV).

The nearest home, Thatched House Farm, is 330m from the site. It supports a number of businesses and hosts an internationally-recognised cancer awareness festival each year.

Another property, High Billinghurst Farm, is a venue for weddings, funerals and other functions.

A traveller site and mobile home park are about 485m from the centre of the well site compound. A new settlement has also been approved for land nearby at Dunsfold Park.

UKOG’s application is for three years and would involve four phases of work:

  • access and well site construction – 14 weeks
  • drilling, testing and appraisal using a 38m high rig– 60 weeks
  • plugging, abandonment and decommissioning – 5 weeks
  • restoration – 5 weeks

The company has said the maximum number of movements by heavy goods vehicle would be 20 per day.

A 30m wide bell-mouth and 1km access track would connect the well site to a new junction onto High Loxley Road. 55 m of hedgerow and two trees would be removed. The carriageway at the junction of High Loxley Road and Dunsfold Road would be extended by up to 0.9m on all sides and strengthened to allow vehicles to turn into the site. There would also be road widening at Pratts corner.

An application for an alternative access route was withdrawn by UKOG in March 2020.

Local opposition

200513 Dunsfold proposed access SCC

According to the report, a public consultation on the application produced 469 written representations and four petitions. 78% of comments (367) were against the scheme.

Waverley Borough Council and Dunsfold, Bramley, Alford, Witley and Cranleigh parish councils all objected, some of them strongly. Local groups, including Campaign to Protect Rural England, Waverley Friends of the Earth and Surrey Wildlife Trust have also objected.

The borough council objected on 17 separate grounds. The council was particularly concerned that predicted noise would be above background levels, especially at night.

Surrey Wildlife Trust objected to the impact on climate change, ecology and the natural environment.

Dunsfold Aerodrome said the application had not properly considered the existing and proposed uses at Dunsfold Park, including the current operational airfield.

The Surrey Hills AONB said the proposal would “would be a seriously incongruous feature in the Area of Great Landscape Value and compensation should be provided if mitigation is insufficient”.

Other concerns raised by the consultation included:

  • Proposal is against government policy
  • Errors and incomplete information in the application
  • Lack of economic benefits
  • Unacceptable impact on local amenity and businesses
  • Landscape and visual impacts
  • Noise, air quality, lighting
  • Risk to highway safety at Pratts Corner junction and High Loxley/Dunsfold road junction
  • Impact on ecology, archaeology, heritage and rights of way
  • Clear felling on nearby woodland would expose the well

There were also calls for a restoration bond to ensure money was available to restore the site.

Supporters

Just over a fifth of comments (102) supported the application. The main reasons given included:

  • Economic benefits
  • Reduced carbon footprint of domestically-produced oil and gas
  • Need
  • Low visual presence, noise and access

There was no objection from the Environment Agency, Natural England, Surrey Highway Authority, Surrey ecologist and countryside access team.

No surprise there then!

And here’s the local man behind the cunning plan, who lives just far enough away not to be bothered by the development. The elderly owner of the land in Dunsfold died recently.

Screen Shot 2020-05-16 at 10.45.22

18 thoughts on “Drill or Drop? ‘Drill’ says Surrey County Council.

  1. Quite unbelievable, but it’s no real surprise, given other incongruous consents that’s will adversely affect Cranleigh.
    We haven’t got the infrastructure to support any of these developments and in particular the road system is well beyond capacity.
    20 traffic movements a day is 20 to many.

    • We agree – you couldn’t Adam or Eve it! Ignore objections from every parish and town council in the area. Ignore the objections from Waverley Borough Council. Why on earth did SCC declare a climate emergency?

      Ignoring local opinion is ecoming a bit of a habit in this so called democracy of ours – and like many others, we are heartily sick of people riding rough-shod over the views of the people who have to live with their mistakes.

      How much money is there in this for SCC? What about the local county councillors? What are they doing? What are our MP’s saying about this. Where is the Hon Angie and the Hon Jeremy – spending more time walking in the beautiful woodland with their OH’s?

      SCC is inflicting new schools on Cranleigh simply because they failed over decades to properly maintain the schools they had. So now they go for two new schools on land that floods so they can pay for them with the proceeds of 90 homes on the former school sites. No doubt they too will be approved in the next week or two at a ‘virtaul meeting?’

      The residents of Cranleigh must be throwing their hands up in dispair. However, if it is any consolation Surrey County Council is hell-bent on ruining our town of Farnham too.

  2. Ah this. Where do we even start? Well it’s Surrey CC so watch how quickly everyone bar the applicant is meaningless.

    I’ve objected. Waverley BC has objected – hundreds of residents have objected.

    Protests were likely (but that’s that dealt with by just happening to get to this during the lockdown).

    My full response (video and text) is here:

    https://www.facebook.com/paulfollows4southwestsurrey/videos/184006889457338/?vh=e&d=n

  3. We urge everyone to listen to Paul Follows’ video in his comments above – and then write to Surrey County Council and every single county councillor and raise merry hell!

  4. It is just appalling that SCC can just ram this through – No doubt in their Tiny minds for the greater good of The Government and – basically Stuff the local area – this for goodness sakes is in the middle of the Boondocks – Dunsfold is still 1/2hr from the closest major road (ie A3) What happened to the new Greener way of doing things – Oil & Gas are NOT! This is pandering to Big Gas Companies and not even considering CLIMATE CHANGE

    I have heard nothing of any use from our SCC Councillors they are frankly useless so I cannot see the point of even trying – and I say that with a heavy heart as our local Councillors and Parish Councillors have all rejected this scheme and it means NOTHING They are trying and it means NOTHING…. Well it will when it comes to the next elections and I hope people take note … PLEASE…………

    This will crucify this area and doing this BEFORE the planned Date smacks of a sneaky Back-door way of getting it through. SHAME ON YOU AS EVER SCC – You are so up the B**Sides of Central Government – YOU should be ashamed.
    Angry as ever
    Denise – Alfold

  5. Let us all bombard our MP’s – if you can remember who they are, with letters e-mails and telephone calls. As for Cllr Povey and Victoria Young – forget it. The day either of these stand up for the towns and villages they represent will be a day to remember. However, if we are wrong – we will eat our web!

    But just remember everyone – the Surrey County Council elections will be held next May!

  6. What a disgraceful recommendation from the hired hacks at Surrey, however it may be, and this may be a forlorn hope that the councillors on the planning committee will recognise fully the huge depth of opposition from residents and every council in the area. Maybe the two local MPs could unlock themselves and start representing the views of their constituents?

  7. Is this the same Ashley Ward who desecrated ancient woodland to create an access to his home? Flooded a footpath to create a lake in a bid to make money? A man who will do anything to make a few bob?

  8. Waverley Borough Council must be heartily sick of being ignored by the county council? Why ever did it trust them enough to partner them in the toxic development at Blightwells in Farnham?

    • Quite simple. The old administration trusted (though god knows why) their Surrey party mates.

      The current administration of Waverley is the same groups that essentially form what little there is of opposition groups at SCC. Bring on 2021 (we are going to do everything we can to change that). I for one intend to stand for the Godalming South, Milford and Witley division.

  9. Brilliant! Glad to hear that news, because some sanity needs to be brought into Surrey Towers. But be warned – you may receive one of those ubiquitous notes? You know the ones that say there’s no money left in the county coffers?

    Do you really want to inherit all those really bad investments in retail parks around the country? All those retail shops in Blightwells – 28 of them altogether along with a long menu of eateries? An administration that has failed its old and its young?

    It is high time the residents of this borough woke up to the errors of the Tory administrations of Waverley and the county of Surrey. But as we have said many times before, stick a blue rosette on a monkey, and the fodder will vote for it!

  10. The campaign against UKOG 234’s proposals has had assistance from many Councillors at all levels and of all persuasions but just to put the record straight………..

    Cllr Victoria Young is opposed to this application and as the ward councillor has an automatic slot and will be speaking against it on Thursday, technology willing. She has also been working hard behind the scenes to try to get some proper examination of the traffic management proposals and also to get a deferral of the meeting while the transport aspects are sorted out. So you may well find yourself eating some of your web on Friday.

    Cllr Andrew Povey is on the planning committee so he is subject to the rules about pre-determination etc etc and we won’t know until Thursday what he makes of it.

    Jeremy Hunt has also been very helpful and supportive.

    Who is this “Angie”? OK, I know really. She is invisible but then technically it isn’t on her patch.

    I wish I could say the same for officers, particularly highways, but then the main purpose of Surrey Highways Development team is to facilitate development wherever possible However credit where credit is due. Surrey Highways have clearly had reservations that having slow and heavy vehicles turning in and out of a tight turn on a single track road (i.e. High Loxley Road) immediately after a blind bend on a fast rural road is a tad dangerous but fear not, UKOG 234 has found a solution!

    The solution involves a 5 way set of temporary traffic lights on the B2130 at Pratts Corner (the turn off to Dunsfold Village down Dunsfold Common Road) which will have a 5 way sequence alternating with a 3 way sequence. The UKOG traffic statement is a pretty shoddy and confused piece of work so it isn’t clear to me – even at this late stage – how long these lights will need to be there for over the 3 years of the “temporary” planning permission but totting up the 5 phases of works it could be 84 weeks out of a possible 156. Apparently when in use the lights need to be there 7am and 7pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 1pm Saturday. The UKOG statement and the Planning officer report which parrots it say these lights ‘could’ be removed overnight but we don’t know for sure this can or will happen. I’ve sent an email to the SCC planning officer asking for some clarity on this point but I doubt that as a mere member of the public I’ll get an answer.

    Anyway, it probably won’t surprise you to know that Surrey Highways accepted this tosh and say this is all going to be fine and the delays these will cause on Dunsfold Road are acceptable and the potentially very long delays to users of High Loxley Road are also acceptable. That doesn’t take account of any delay caused by abnormally long trailers carrying sections of oil rig turning down High Loxley Road and grounding which looks to some of us a very real possibility and could bring everything to a juddering halt. If it happens I gather you would need to close the road and get a crane in to lift the trailer off and out. It isn’t clear that SCC highways have even considered the grounding point, or considered it properly. But then, they have until Thursday’s meeting to sort this out, so who’s worried? Even if it can’t be sorted by Thursday it can be left to conditions, i.e. the officers, to sort out afterwards. Fine.

    I could go on, at even more length, but the sun is shining and my garden beckons so you are spared….

    And just to be clear, I’m writing this as a private individual and the views expressed are my own and I’m not speaking on behalf of anybody including Protect Dunsfold……….

  11. Really good insightful Post – What gets me is that the agencies that you think would have an issue with this Just don’t – as they don’t about most applications regardless of whether it is Drill for Gas or Building loads of Houses in unsustainable areas…

    There are times I lose the will to bother any more – and maybe that is why so many don’t bother anymore if they have had years and years of this…I have only been bleating on for 6 years!

    What individuals, Parishes or Borough Councils say seems to make no odds… So long as Central Government can put the tick in the box. I am ashamed of them all and will never vote for them again.

    To try to sneak this one in during this crisis STINKS and they should all be ashamed of themselves… But they won’t be – it will be business as usual – Hopefully memories will endure and we can make them pay later.

    No Longer Angry of Alfold – But Really P****d off from Alfold
    Denise

    • WW knows just how you feel. We sometimes wonder why we even bother informing residents what is going on right on their doorstep.

      If there is one thing that worries us it is APATHY – which has spread faster and further than the Coronavirus, and has been growng for years.

      When the HGV’s start thundering towards the UCOG site, then everyone will start moaning – when it is all too late.

      Yes, sneaking this in before it was due STINKS – but ashamed of themselves they will not be. Why? Because most of them don’t give a damn abou our environment which is steadily being ruined.

  12. Great to hear from you Kathy and thank you for updating us on what the local member is doing ‘behind the scenes.’ She should be horriified at this proposal. Wasn’t it her husband Alan Young when he was a county councillor that supported an HGV every 3/5 mins travelling along the A281 through Bramley onto Wildwood Lane to access the former Cranleigh Brick & Tile Works in Knowle Lane. For an amazing 5 years!
    Wildwood Lane has regularly been wrecked, and for some months was impassable with Road Close signs up for no reason that anyone could see, which of course everyone ignored.

    So now it is the turn of Dunsfold Road to be wrecked? Which will make travelling around there very difficult as the Dunsfold Road, Alfold on the other side of the airfield is an absolute disgrace. Or, so we are told by our Alfold correspondent who is in touch regularly. It really makes such good sense to make the road even more difficult to navigate now everyone has to travel, most of the time, via Milford to Witley with their recycling!

    The A281 is also in dire need of repair – but of course, SCC Highways ignore anything and everything. If someone decided to use it as a runway, there would be objection.

    It is beginning to look like there is someone at SCC determined to ruin the eastern-village of Waverley.

    As for the residents of Dunsfold village – someone spare them from this lunacy.

    Agree the sun is shining and our garden calls too!

  13. Everybody so far is blaming the SCC Councillors but they cant be blamed until they vote on Thursday! At present the only guilty party are the SCC Planning Officers who have recommended that the application should be permitted.
    Of the 11 Councillors on Surrey’s planning committee, 8 of them are Conservative so they might not pay much too munch attention to WBC objections (where their Tory chums were unceremoniously booted out of office last year)
    Will the Conservatives vote in line with Tory dogma “all development is good development” or will they judge the application on its merits (rather difficult when you consider the officer’s report is 146 pages long)
    All eyes on Dr Povey – what will he have to say on Thursday?

  14. Well we will soon see who to blame – and as you say – all eyes on Dr Andrew Povey?

    Has anyone seen or heard of him lately?

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