Good Law Project supporting campaign to challenge Government over drilling for fossil fuels on edge of Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Good Law Project (GLP) is today announcing it is supporting Surrey community group, Protect Dunsfold Ltd (PDL) in its statutory challenge against the Government’s decision to allow exploratory drilling for fossil fuel on the edge of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Surrey Hills.
GLP is committing to funding the case in the same week record heat temperatures were set across the UK, and the High Court ruled that the Government’s strategy for Net Zero is inadequate and unlawful (after a challenge brought by several campaigners including Good Law Project).
Jo Maugham, Director of Good Law Project, said:
‘"We have some questions. Why, in the aftermath of the hottest day ever, are we wanting to dig up more fossil fuels? Why are we doing it next to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty? And why is Government afraid to let the people of Surrey make their own decisions about what works for their community?
"We are proud to stand side by side with Protect Dunsfold."
Sarah Godwin of local community group Protect Dunsfold Limited 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. The muddled logic of the Secretary of State’s decision speaks volumes whilst riding roughshod over local democracy and policy. We are delighted to be challenging the decision with the full support of the GLP and our expert advocacy team.”
Ricardo Gama at Leigh Day, the solicitors acting for Protect Dunsfold Limited, said:
“This important case will determine whether the government’s approach to assessing the greenhouse gas, landscape and other impacts of hydrocarbon development such as this was lawful, particularly given the sensitive location of the site in close proximity to the Surrey Hills AONB. Our clients hope to overturn the government decision as they believe it sets a damaging precedent for other similar developments.”
The challenge centres on the government’s decision to overturn a decision made by Surrey County Council to refuse planning permission to energy company UK Oil and Gas to carry out exploratory drilling for gas in Dunsfold, south of Guildford. Despite admitting it would cause ‘a significant level of landscape and visual impact’, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, under the leadership of Michael Gove, overturned the decision in June.
PDL’s legal challenge will focus on the following grounds:
- That the Secretary of State did not give adequate weight to the greenhouse gas impacts of the project and its impact on climate change;
- That the benefits versus the impacts of the analysis were not properly assessed.
- That the Secretary of State did not give adequate weight to conserving and enhancing the scenic beauty of the proposed site, which borders on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
The government’s decision to grant planning permission has caused uproar in Surrey. It has also been condemned by senior MP, Jeremy Hunt, who is the MP for South West Surrey (including Dunsfold). In a recent letter to Michael Gove objecting to the decision, he wrote:
‘I am writing to protest in the strongest of terms against your decision to grant the appeal that will allow drilling and exploration of fossil fuels in Dunsfold…With the government’s commitment to reaching net zero, its recent welcome announcement regarding the move to nuclear and renewable energy, and the continued moratorium on fracking, I cannot see how this site has any role to play in our future energy supply needs…In short it will create enormous disruption and environmental damage for little if any economic benefit.’
GLP is launching a crowdfunding page to support the funding of this case, with the aim of raising £30,000 in 30 days. Please go here to support: https://glplive.org/surrey-hills
- Good Law Project is a not-for-profit that uses the law for a better world. We hold the Government to account and protect the interests of the public. We had a primary role in overturning the prorogation of Parliament two years ago and, more recently, have been shining a spotlight on the Government’s award of PPE contracts to their friends and associates.
- You can read the claim as filed against the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities here.
- Leigh Day are acting as solicitors, and Estelle Dehon QC of Cornerstone Barristers and Alex Shattock of Landmark Chambers are acting as the counsel team in this case.
- Waverley Borough Council has also launched a separate legal challenge against the Dunsfold drilling permission. More details here.