Campaigners challenge Dunsfold gas decision in the High Court, Thursday, 8 June

From a press release from Extinction Rebellion

A judicial review which seeks to overturn a government decision to allow gas drilling at Dunsfold will be held in the High Court on Thursday 8 June.

The challenge is brought by campaign group Protect Dunsfold – supported by the Good Law Project – and Waverley Borough Council.

The judicial review seeks to overturn the government decision to allow exploratory gas drilling by UK Oil & Gas  PLC (UKOG) at Dunsfold. In 2020 Surrey County Council twice refused UKOG permission to drill, but the government reversed this in 2022.

The judicial review was allowed on the basis of two legal arguments – the first relating to landscape impacts and the second to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

Significantly, if the decision to allow drilling is overturned on the basis of the second argument, this could affect the outcome of future fossil fuel planning applications as it will confirm that emissions taking place at the project site should be taken into account.

Local MP, Jeremy Hunt – who is Chancellor of the Exchequer – has attended local protests and continues to oppose drilling for gas in Dunsfold. After the court decision to allow the judicial review in March he said: “Despite the latest judicial review, it is again disappointing that plans for this potential gas exploration have not been formally shelved. The idea of drilling on this beautiful area continues to be inappropriate – what’s more UKOG’s data and mapping of the sub-surface is sparse, old and simply not detailed enough….” Read Jeremy Hunt’s letter to Michael Gove

Sarah Godwin from Protect Dunsfold said: “We are seeking a successful outcome to the hearing so that the decision to allow UKOG 234 Ltd to carry out exploratory drilling in Loxley/Dunsfold will be reversed by the Minister of State. This project must be stopped now. UKOG’s plans would have considerable negative impact on the natural environment around Dunsfold. There is also growing evidence that greenhouse gas emissions must be factored into planning decisions.

Kirsty Clough of the Weald Action Group said: “The Government has repeatedly told us that the UK is transitioning away from fossil fuels yet since it hosted COP26, the major climate conference, at the end of 2021, it has given the go ahead to several major oil and gas projects. The courts have a crucial role to play in intervening in these decisions and holding the Government to account over their role in the worsening climate crisis. We remain hopeful that the decision to drill in Dunsfold will be overturned”.

Paul Follows, Leader of Waverley Borough Council, said: “Drilling for fossil fuels is completely at odds with our declared Climate Emergency and similar declarations made by the County Council and the Government.”

UKOG also faces a legal challenge to their oil drilling site at Horse Hill in Surrey, which will be heard at the Supreme Court on 21 –22 June. The outcome of the Horse Hill legal fight could set a precedent for future fossil fuel projects like Rosebank in the North Sea, and even call into question whether the government should have approved a new coal mine in Cumbria.  Read an article on Sky News: Horse Hill court battle could set precedent that triggers ‘beginning of the end’ of new fossil fuel projects in UK

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