Campaigners vow to fight on as court greenlights gas drilling in Jeremy Hunt’s Surrey constituency
January 11, 2024 by Extinction Rebellion
Extinction Rebellion climate activists, local residents and Waverley Borough Council have pledged to fight on after the Court of Appeal ruled this week against any further attempts to stop UK Oil and Gas (UKOG) from drilling for gas at the village of Dunsfold in Surrey.
Local campaign group Protect Dunsfold and Waverley Borough Council were seeking to overturn ministerial planning permission for drilling by UKOG at the proposed Loxley wellsite, near Dunsfold.
However, on Monday (8 January), Lord Justice Stuart-Smith ruled that an appeal had no prospect of success. He said the Court of Appeal’s decision is final and could not be reviewed or appealed, adding: “The planning permission will now remain in full force and effect for its full term”.
The Appeal Court case followed a long running campaign involving Extinction Rebellion activists, Surrey residents, campaign group Protect Dunsfold, Waverley Borough Council and local MP, Jeremy Hunt – although since becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer his opposition has been muted.
However, Hunt, who is defending a slim majority of 8,000 in his constituency, this week tweeted “I am bitterly disappointed to learn that the Court of Appeal has today refused permission for any further appeal against the UKOG planning consent for the Loxley gas well outside Dunsfold. I stand ready to provide my assistance and support to local communities in any way possible going forwards.”
The local council, residents and environmental activists said Hunt’s protest was too little, too late and expressed shock and anger at the Court of Appeal’s decision.
Cllr Paul Follows, leader of Waverley Borough Council (WBC), said: “I am deeply distressed and angry to have to report to residents that the court of appeal has dismissed the final avenues of appeal in regard to the proposed local extraction of fossil fuels by UKOG.”
He added that “this utter farce is enabled by the national government and its pathetic excuse for climate policies.
“Waverley Borough Council will be writing to Jeremy Hunt, both as the MP and a senior representative of that government asking for an explanation on behalf of the residents of Waverley and of the east of our borough in particular.
“He and his government have enabled this travesty. We will of course also continue to pursue every legal avenue to resist this decision.”
Extinction Rebellion activist and local resident Kirsty Clough said: “We are of course extremely disappointed. This is not justice. Climate change is happening now and burning fossil fuels is by far the biggest contributor.
“As widely reported this week, 2023 was the hottest year on record globally and the Met Office has said that there is a good chance that this year could be even hotter.
“When will our government and judicial system wake up to the fact that we are already in a climate emergency where every tonne of carbon put into the atmosphere counts.”
She added: “Despite the government repeatedly saying the opposite it is widely acknowledged that more UK oil and gas won’t help energy security or bring down bills.
“Even Alok Sharma, former Conservative Business and Energy Security Secretary, said on Monday that the government doesn’t have any control over where fossil fuels extracted here go to because they are owned by private companies.”
Referring to UKOG’ chief executive Stephen Sanderson’s jubilant response to the ruling, Steve Williams, local Green Party councillor, said Sanderson “is right to say that the decision is consistent with the government’s net zero policy – a government in which our local MP, Jeremy Hunt, serves as Chancellor.
“The government needs to acknowledge that taking seriously the climate emergency means ending on-shore drilling for fossil fuels.
“Waverley Borough Council has consistently challenged the decision of the Secretary of State to allow fossil fuel drilling in Waverley. Now the legal avenue has been closed, we will nonetheless be continuing to oppose this eco-vandalism in any way we can within the law.”
Sarah Godwin, director of Protect Dunsfold, said the campaign group is “deeply disappointed” at the Court of Appeal ruling.
She added; “It seems incredible that within the current context of extreme weather conditions throughout the Northern Hemisphere, planning policy still supports such speculative and unnecessary onshore oil and gas exploration.
“The Court’s decision shows that the government needs to radically overhaul national planning policy to redress the balance so that the planning authorities always have to take the full climate and environmental impact of such proposals fully into account.
“We will continue to work to change government policies, and fight for recognition of the very real and imminent threat to our environment, businesses and everyday life related to the continued search for fossil fuels.”
Former housing minister, Stuart Andrew, granted planning permission for the Dunsfold in June 2022, after a public inquiry. Surrey County Council had twice refused consent for the proposal.