The High Court gave the go-ahead to the legal challenge against exporatory gas drilling near Dunsfold.
The court decided that the challenge should be considered on two grounds, concerning whether the government gave sufficient consideration to harm to the nearby Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and inconsistencies with its decision to refuse permission for gas testing at Ellesmere Port because of carbon emissions.
Press release from Extinction Rebellion Surrey
Protesters from across Surrey and the south-east are travelling to the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Thursday 2nd March to voice their anger at the government for overturning Surrey County Council’s decisions to deny UKOG (UK Oil & Gas) permission to explore for gas in the village of Dunsfold in Surrey.
The County Council has twice refused UKOG permission but the government reversed this decision in 2022. Waverley Borough Council and Protect Dunsfold, a local community group, are going to the Court, supported by the Good Law Project, to seek a judicial review of the government’s decision.
Up to 100 protestors including parish, town and county councillors, supporters of local campaign and community groups and members of Extinction Rebellion (XR) Surrey are expected to protest outside the Court with colourful flags, banners and samba drums. Speakers flanked by XR’s “Red Rebels” will include Waverley Borough Council leaders, local Dunsfold campaigners and XR members.
Sarah Godwin from Protect Dunsfold said: “This application has been refused twice by Surrey County Council. The nation is demanding rapid action on the climate emergency, and it’s more urgent because of global instability and war. We’re glad that the Good Law Project exists to challenge these important government decisions on environmental issues, funded by popular subscription”.
Farnham resident Clive Teague, a retired engineer who is 74, is travelling to the protest. “The science is telling us that if we want to stop climate breakdown we must stop drilling for new fossil fuels now. Even if the claim that potentially £100 million worth of gas is buried beneath Dunsfold is true this will only create profits for the rich whilst destroying the countryside. It won’t bring our fuel bills down. Making our homes warmer and more energy efficient and investing in sustainable energy production is the only thing which makes sense for Waverley and the planet.”
Kirsty Clough, 47, who lives in Godalming and represents the The Weald Action Group, said: “It’s outrageous. Exploring for more gas is not the answer to the fossil fuel price crisis. It will do nothing to alleviate the high energy bills being faced by consumers now and it’ll make the climate crisis worse.”
Jill Anderson, a garden designer and writer from Godalming, 72, said “I want a future for my grandchildren where they can enjoy our beautiful countryside, food security and live on a planet without pollution. And that has to start on our doorstep.”
Local MP Jeremy Hunt has also opposed this application. In January 2022 at a local protest, he said: “It is absolutely extraordinary after COP26 in Glasgow that we are even thinking about drilling for oil and gas… We have to get off the habit of using oil and gas… and this is taking us in exactly the wrong direction.”
A statement from Waverley Borough Council says “The government’s decision… is bad news for the people of Waverley, bad news for the natural environment and bad news for the planet.”
Godalming Town Councillor and activist with XR, Chris Neill said: “The resistance to this destructive project has been running since 2019 and it won’t stop after today whatever the court’s verdict. The determined cooperation between different campaign groups, elected councillors and ordinary citizens is great to be a part of. This is how we’ll win the battle against the fossil fuel industry and against climate breakdown”.