Oil licence to continue to blight Leith Hill, regulator confirms to campaigners

Press release from A Voice for Leith Hill

Leith Hill. Image courtesy Ackroyd & Harvey/ Surrey Hills Arts / Photo From The Air

The licence to drill for oil and gas in the area covering Leith Hill in Surrey will still be offered to exploration companies, even though successive companies have failed to drill there.

Leith Hill, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, was the site of controversial plans to drill for oil by successive companies over a 12 year period. Europa Oil and Gas pulled out of the site in 2018 after a lengthy legal battle to get planning permission to drill at the site.

UK Oil & Gas Plc (UKOG), Angus Energy and Egdon Resources Ltd took over the licence from Europa and said they were considering plans for a horizontal drill under Leith Hill from the A24. They gave it up after concluding: “the required long-reach/shallow target-depth wells are neither technically viable or economically feasible”.

James Knapp, on behalf of A Voice For Leith Hill, contacted the Oil and Gas Authority to request an update on the licence now no oil company seems likely to be able to use it. They replied: “We can confirm that PEDL143 was relinquished on 26th September 2020.  The OGA cannot speculate on future out-of-round licence applications that may encompass this area, or the outcome of any future licence rounds”.

James Knapp said: “The licensing system is broken. The Oil and Gas Authority should remove unworkable areas from the licensing rounds.

“The rules say that companies have to drill, or the licences must be relinquished. This licence area has proved unviable and the blight on the local community and the environment should be lifted by drawing a line under PEDL 143. The Oil and Gas Authority should review its broken licensing system and free wide swathes of the country from the threat of oil and gas drilling.

“In the year of COP26, when we are supposed to be working towards net zero, it should be routine to withdraw unlicensed areas because there is no requirement for an operator to be compensated. Other countries have stopped fossil fuel exploration altogether. Where is the ambition from this Government?”

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