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Judicial review hearing in legal case against Surrey oil well

A judicial review hearing for a Surrey resident's claim against the decision to allow oil wells on green belt farmland near to her home will be held on Tuesday, 17 November and Wednesday, 18 November, 2020.

Posted on 16 November 2020

Sarah Finch, of Redhill in Surrey, will argue that the environmental assessment used as part of the Surrey County Council decision-making process for the oil wells proposed by Horse Hill Developments Ltd should have considered the full climate impacts in the context of the current climate emergency. 
Friends of the Earth has made a legal intervention to the court in support of Sarah’s case. It says it will assist the court on why it was vital to assess the full/all the carbon impacts in any decision to allow the production of oil in Surrey, and in the context of the climate emergency.
Sarah has been campaigning against the Horse Hill Development oil drilling operation since 2013 when a well site was established following the discovery of oil in the Portland Sandstone and the Kimmeridge Limestone within the Lower Weald. The proposed development is 3.1 km west of Horley town centre and 3.5m north west of Gatwick Airport’s main runway, and six miles from Sarah’s home.
She has campaigned with others against the proposed expansion of the site, which over 20 years of oil production would include five drilling cellars, four hydrocarbon production wells, four gas-to-power generators, a process and storage area and tanker loading facility, seven oil tanks, each with a 1,300-barrel capacity and a 37-metre drill rig.
Sarah is represented by Leigh Day solicitors, Marc Willers QC (Garden Court chambers) and Estelle Dehon (Cornerstone chambers). Friends of the Earth is represented by Nina Pindham of No 5 Chambers.
Sarah’s claim for judicial review of the decision-making by Surrey County Council and Horse Hill Developments is on the following grounds:
  • A failure to comply with the 2014 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive and the 2017 Town and Country Planning (EIA) Regulations, because the indirect greenhouse gas (GHG) impacts of the development from burning oil were not assessed and there was inadequate consideration of the climate crisis imperative to meet the UK’s Net Zero Target
  • An error of law in interpreting the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and Minerals Planning Practice Guidance so as to permit exclusion of an assessment of the downstream GHG emissions from the oil 
Rowan Smith, solicitor at Leigh Day, said: 
“Our client believes that, when Surrey County Council gave its permission for the proposed development, it did not take account of the full environmental impact it should have. That meant no regulation whatsoever of the resulting carbon emissions.
“Since the Court of Appeal ruled earlier this year that policy approval for Heathrow airport expansion was unlawful, it has been very clear that the UK planning system must ensure at every level that all climate change impacts are properly considered. This must include consideration of the Net Zero Target.”
The judicial review hearing will be held remotely. A link to the hearing can be obtained from the Administrative Court Office.
Rowan Smith
Climate change Environment Human rights Judicial review Planning Wildlife

Rowan Smith

Rowan Smith is a senior associate solicitor in the human rights department.

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