Local campaigner issues legal challenge to oil production plans

Press release from Leigh Day

A resident of Redhill in Surrey has issued a legal challenge against Surrey County Council’s decision to grant planning permission to allow Horse Hill Developments Ltd to retain and extend a site at Horse Hill, near Gatwick, with an increase in oil production by the drilling of four new wells on Green Belt land.

The proposals will be carried out over five phases and will increase the existing site from 2.08 hectares to approximately 2.8 hectares.  It will entail the drilling of five new drilling cellars to accommodate four newly drilled hydrocarbon production wells and one new water re-injection well. There will be four gas-to-power generators and seven newly installed oil tanks, each with a capacity of 1300 barrels. The expansion of drilling will result in large-scale production of hydrocarbons, predominantly oil, for a period of 20 years.

Sarah Finch is challenging the council’s decision on 11 September 2019 to grant planning permission for the development on a number of grounds including:

  • failure to assess the indirect climate change impact of the plans;
  • failure to assess the greenhouse gas impact from the oil the site will produce;
  • failure to assess the impact of the development on seismicity;
  • the detrimental impact of the development on Green Belt land.

Sarah, who is bringing the case with support from the Weald Action Group, argues in her legal case that the council failed to comply with the obligations of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (EIA Directive)  and the EIA Regulations by not assessing the greenhouse gas impact of the development. She also argues that the council’s approach to the climate change impact of the development was unlawful when considered against the requirements of the council’s development plan and the National Policy Planning Framework.

On seismicity, documents produced by academics at Edinburgh University and the University of Glasgow were presented to the council to consider ahead of making their decision. These examined the potential for earthquakes resulting from the drilling and specifically considered the numerous earthquakes recorded in the Weald in 2018. The academics objected to the proposed development on the basis that oil production at Horse Hill would likely result in similar earthquake events. The planning officer failed to address the issue in the report he wrote for the planning committee.

Sarah is raising money to fund the case through Chuffed.org.

Sarah, who has been campaigning against oil drilling at Horse Hill since 2013, said:

“I believe the council’s decision to grant permission for more oil production at Horse Hill is wholly wrong. It is astonishing that while the planet is in the grip of a climate crisis, permission is being granted for the production of fossil fuels, which we should be trying to eradicate, not encourage.”

Anna Dews, solicitor at law firm Leigh Day, said:

“Our client believes that the council’s decision to grant permission for this development was unlawful and comes at a time when there is an increasing awareness both locally and globally of the need to urgently address the climate crisis and the requirement to reduce greenhouse emissions by at least 100% below the 1990 baseline.”