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Oil drilling threat to cancer patients' respite in Dunsfold

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Oil drilling threat to cancer patients' respite in Dunsfold

Published by Local Democracy Reporter Rebecca Curley at 12:13pm 29th July 2019.

Respite for cancer patients is under threat if plans to drill for oil in a neighbouring field get the go ahead.

This came as residents and councillors in Waverley called on Surrey County Council to honour its commitment to a climate emergency and reject the application, a meeting heard. 

UK Oil & Gas (UKOG) has submitted plans to Surrey County Council to carry out exploratory drilling on land in Dunsfold -– south of Dunsfold Road and east of High Loxley Road. 

A second application has now been submitted for a different access junction off Dunsfold Road after the company held a public event to show plans to residents and revised them. 

But Ashley Herman from neighbouring Thatched House Farm says Trew Fields Festival - an annual cancer awareness festival for hundreds of people - and weekend respite breaks for people undergoing treatment and their families will be affected as the fields back onto the well site and is worried about the noise from the drilling and loss of view. 

He was one of 24 speakers at Waverley Borough Council’s listening panel about the application last Tuesday (July 23). He said: "Every year we hold a cancer awareness festival on our field called Trew Fields. It attracts over 900 people, many of whom are suffering from that disease. 

"And we offer retreat weekends on our fields for cancer sufferers offering them respite. They are not going to enjoy that 120 metres away from the oil well."

He also runs a brewing company and organic farm including bees and pigs and uses water wells in the area to help make the craft beer - and is concerned the water will also be affected by the drilling. 

UKOG says the process it is using is not fracking. If approved the wells would target gas in the Portland sandstone and deeper oil in the Kimmeridge limestones. 

But council officers told the meeting a chemical compound will be pumped down to help break up the rock. 

The listening panel is a new idea by the council’s chief executive Tom Horwood and acted as a way for councillors to hear views of residents before an official response to the planning application is sent to SCC.

Waverley is entitled to offer feedback as a consultee in the planning process. 

Speakers were given four minutes each to share their opinion to a panel of four councillors. There was no debate or discussion but councillors were allowed to ask questions to clarify points made. 

Several times throughout the three hour meeting many people said the application was not compatible with SCC declaring a climate emergency.

Neighbouring business owner Tom Gordon, who runs a wedding venue at his family home of High Billinghurst Farm, said there will be "irreparable damage" to all the local businesses who rely on him for work. 

Among the fears raised include the rise in seismic activity recently experienced in Surrey with earthquakes recorded near other oil drilling sites. 

No official link has been made between the drilling and earthquake activity in the county which started last year. 

Chris Britton, of Alfold Parish Council, called for a ban on all planning applications associated with drilling until further investigation into the earthquakes had been carried out. 

Many said with the climate emergency declared by SCC and due to go to Waverley councillors for a vote in September, "now was not the time to be drilling for fossil fuels". 

Summing up the three hour meeting, panel chairman cllr Steve Williams said:

"Surrey County Council recently declared a climate emergency and if they are fully committed to becoming a carbon neutral county then this [application] is incompatible. There will be high criticism for paying lip service to concerns over global warming."

Waverley will now submit its feedback to Surrey County Council but is overall objecting to the application. 

The application is for three years with the company saying it will restore the site back to "its original use".

 UKOG was invited to the meeting but declined to attend. It also has oil drilling sites in Horse Hill. 

No date has been set for the planning application to be decided.


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