Green light for legal challenge to Surrey County Council’s support for 20 years’ oil production at Horse Hill


Campaigners outside the Royal Courts of Justice for a hearing on this case in February 2020

Sarah Finch, a campaigner from Redhill, has been granted permission by the Appeal Court for a Judicial Review of Surrey County Council’s decision to allow the drilling of four new oil wells and 20 years of oil production at Horse Hill, near Gatwick in Surrey.

Sarah Finch and many others had objected to the proposed development by UK Oil and Gas for a range of reasons, including climate change. When Surrey County Council approved the plans in September 2019, Sarah issued a legal challenge, with support from the Weald Action Group. She claimed that the Council had failed to consider the direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions of the project, and the government’s Net Zero target for carbon emissions.

The Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Lewison has agreed that these grounds are arguable and justify a public hearing. He said: “There seems also (albeit obliquely) to be a challenge to the national planning policy referred to in the quoted extract in para 14 of the Appellant’s skeleton argument on the ground that it is not in conformity with EU law. That is a point of some importance which ought to be considered at a full hearing.”

Sarah Finch said: “I’m delighted that I am able to bring this Judicial Review and challenge the Council’s decision to allow 20 years of oil production in a time of climate emergency. This legal challenge is happening because of the determination and generosity of so many individuals and local organisations.”

Sarah Finch is represented by Rowan Smith and Carol Day (solicitors at Leigh Day), Marc Willers QC of Garden Court Chambers and Estelle Dehon of Cornerstone Barristers.

Leigh Day solicitor Rowan Smith said: “Our client maintains that Surrey Council has failed in its obligations to assess the indirect greenhouse gas impact of the use of oil produced from this development, as well as to properly consider the environmental objectives of the government’s Net Zero target before granting planning consent. Sarah Finch is rightly delighted that she has been given permission to appeal.”

There will now be a full hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice. The date is to be confirmed.

More than £22,000 has been raise for legal costs through a Crowdfunder campaign:

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