Horse Hill: heading to the Supreme Court
The legal challenge over Horse Hill is going to the Supreme Court, the highest court in the UK.
The Law Lords will hear the case brought by campaigner Sarah Finch, who is fighting the planning permission for new oil wells and 20 years of oil production at Horse Hill.
Sarah Finch’s judicial review claim was rejected by the High Court in 2020 and judges in the Court of Appeal were divided over the claim, with one judge supporting Sarah’s appeal and two others disagreeing.
The Supreme Court will now make a landmark ruling about whether councils must factor in the long term climate impact when considering applications for fossil fuel production sites.
Sarah’s lawyers will argue that Environmental Impact Assessment for new fossil fuel sites should include an assessment of all the emissions arising from a decision – including the greenhouse gas emissions that will arise when the fuel produced is burned.
Sarah Finch said: “I’m delighted that I will get to take my case to the Supreme Court. The Court wouldn’t have granted permission if it didn’t think this was a very important legal issue which needs to be resolved. If councils don’t assess all the climate impacts of a proposed development before giving it permission, then we have no chance whatever of staying within safe climate limits.”
The legal costs of the appeal to the Supreme Court, as well as court fees, will be covered by The Law for Change Fund. The legal costs of previous stages were met by crowdfunding, fundraising efforts and generous support from individuals and organisations.
Also at Horse Hill
Meanwhile, UK Oil & Gas (UKOG), which operates the Horse Hill site, has changed their plans and decided they wanted to flare all the gas produced (up to ten tonnes a day) rather than use it to generate electricity on site. Because this is a change from what they got planning permission for, Surrey County Council has said they now need to do another EIA. This will mean another consultation, and another chance for us all to have our say.
Albury and Bletchingley: Grey hydrogen applications
Last year IGas applied to Surrey County Council for permission to produce high-carbon ‘grey hydrogen’ at Albury and Bletchingley.
The plans for Albury would produce as much as 10 tonnes of carbon dioxide a day, and as much as 20 tonnes a day at Bletchingley. The applications were expected to be considered in early 2022, but have still not come to the planning committee.
Dunsfold: local council and community group challenge permission
Waverley Borough Council and community group, Protect Dunsfold are both seeking judicial review of the Government’s decision to allow exploratory drilling for fossil fuel at Dunsfold, on the edge of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the Surrey Hills.
Surrey County Council had twice refused this application by UKOG (234) Ltd, a subsidiary of UKOG. UKOG appealed, and in June 2022, Housing Minister Stuart Andrew overruled the refusals and granted planning permission.
Sarah Godwin of Protect Dunsfold said: “Protect Dunsfold has fought consistently for the past three years to represent the concerns of those most impacted by UKOG’s application for exploratory drilling.
“Neither local nor national interest is served by imposing a project harmful to one of the nation’s most sensitive landscapes by inflicting such industrial activity whilst brushing the environmental consequences of continued fossil fuel exploration under the rug.”
Brockham: permit to reinject waste fluid
In April 2022, Surrey County Council granted permission to Angus Energy to produce oil at Brockham. In March 2023, Angus Energy was also granted a permit to reinject waste fluid at the site. Residents fear that Brockham site will become a waste fluid disposal site for other operations around the south-east.