Operator: UK Oil & Gas plc (UKOG)
Planning permission refused – twice! Housing Minister Stuart Andrew overruled the refusals and granted planning permission. Legal challenge by local council and community group unsuccessful.
On 29 June 2020, the Surrey County Council planning committee REFUSED an application by UKOG (234) Ltd, a subsidiary of UKOG, for oil and gas drilling near the village of Dunsfold in south west Surrey (referred to as ‘Loxley’ by UKOG).
But in August, the decision was ruled invalid following technical problems during the committee meeting, which was conducted online. Following training for councillors, the decision was taken again on 27 November 2020 and again refused.
UKOG appealed and a Planning Inquiry was held in July 2021. The appeal was referred to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. In June 2022, Housing Minister Stuart Andrew overruled the refusals and granted planning permission.
Waverley Borough Council and community group, Protect Dunsfold, supported by the Good Law Project, challenged the decision in the court but their claim was rejected.
About the application
UKOG applied for two exploratory oil and gas wells, just outside the village of Dunsfold in a wooded and beautiful corner of south west Surrey. The work would last for 3 years and involve 20 HGV movements a day and a 38 metre rig on the green field site for over a year.
The site is to be accessed via High Loxley Road, a narrow, winding rural lane, lined with hedgerows and mature trees, some of which will be removed to make way for lorries.
On 8 January 2022, villagers and campaigners held a demonstration near the site, joined by the local MP, Jeremy Hunt as well as councillors from Waverley District Council.
Campaigners used a life-size simulation of an HGV to demonstrate their belief that large vehicles will not be able to reach the site without encroaching on common land, for which they do not have permission. Waverley Borough Council leader, Cllr Paul Follows, said: “If the application is approved the council is prepared to fight to protect the common land verges at Dunsfold.”
Jeremy Hunt said: “It is absolutely extraordinary after COP26 in Glasgow that we are even thinking about drilling for oil and gas in this area… We have to get off the habit of using oil and gas for our everyday electricity and this is taking us in exactly the wrong direction.”
About the applicant
UKOG (234) Ltd has never made a profit. It posted losses of over £2M for the 2017 financial and for 2018, the latest year for which figures are available, the losses have now risen to a to just under £7M. Campaigners believe this means UKOG 234 is technically insolvent but is being propped up financially by UKOG which is currently underwriting its debts from year to year.
Waverley Borough Council held its first-ever listening panel, to hear the views of residents and organisations. The three-hour session heard from 22 people, who all objected to the scheme. They included representatives of parish councils, local businesses, community groups and residents. There were no presentations in support of the scheme; UKOG was invited but did not attend.