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Controversial new plan to drill for oil and gas in Surrey passed

Controversial new plan to drill for oil and gas in Surrey passed

Published by Local Democracy Reporter Rebecca Curley at 3:21pm 11th September 2019.

Councillors have called for assurances that seismic activity will continue to be monitored where earthquakes have been felt in Surrey after a controversial plan to drill for oil and gas was passed. 

The application for four new hydrocarbon wells and a water reinjection well which will result in six wells drilling for 25 years was approved on Tuesday.

But councillors on Surrey County Council’s planning and regulatory committee added an informative to conditions making applicants Horse Hill Developments Limited, a subsidiary of UK Oil and Gas, carry on monitoring tremors in the area. 

The two hour meeting at county hall started with three minute speeches from members of the public and action groups who all raised concerns about a recent spate of earthquakes which they believe is linked to exploratory drilling that has already been carried out at the site near Horley. 

Officers said experts had concluded that there was not a link and that the 34 earthquakes experienced since 2018 were down to “natural causes”. 

But residents said they feared for the future and for any more damage earthquakes may cause. 

Lynette Von Kaufmann, who lives in Newdigate, said: “My experience is we hear a huge explosive bang followed by shaking for several seconds. We have had damage in our own house. Residents are very worried that insurance premiums will go up and house prices will fall.”

Scientists have differing opinions about the earthquakes in Surrey but officers said they have to go with what the Oil and Gas Authority decides. 

Cllr Helyn Clack, SCC vice chairman, was allowed to address the committee as a divisional member. 

She called for monitoring of seismic activity to continue as there was huge concern in the area among residents. 

Stephen Sanderson, chief executive of UKOG, spoke at the meeting and said there had been “unsubstantiated myths and scaremongering” around the impact of the exploratory drilling. 

He said there was a national importance for the drilling and for the country to generate its own oil and gas supplies. 

He promised to “ensure that the community and local economy” will “share in the wealth” of the site and that he would look to engage more with local residents and organisations. 

But he stressed the need for more on-shore gas and oil to be produced. 

He said: “In my view, a post-2050 world without fuel protection is neither sensible or sustainable.”

The site is on 2.08 hectares of farmland within a rural area of the Green Belt in the district of Reigate and Banstead. It is about 3km west of Horley town and 1.6km away from the village of Hookwood. Gatwick is about 2km away. 

Planning permission was first granted in 2012 for drilling in one exploratory borehole. The well was originally drilled in 2014 and proved successful. 

In 2017 planning permission was granted for further drilling in a second well. 

Papers said the process is not fracking because it is for conventional oil and gas exploration and does not involved hydraulic fracturing – otherwise known as fracking. Technical experts have examined the application and have not raised any objections. 

The local Parish councils, residents and local action groups have raised concerns with issues such as highways, HGV movements, air quality, noise, lighting, groundwater, landscape, ecology and pollution. 

A total of 1,658 letters have been sent to Surrey County Council – of which 921 are in support of the proposal. 

Those supporting say there is a national need for oil and that increasing domestic oil supply would reduce the need for overseas imports and the environmental impact that would cause.

Over 700 letters are objecting to the proposals.  

Councillors voted seven for and two against the recommendation to permit the application.

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