020 7650 1200


Protect Dunsfold applies for permission to appeal ruling that exploratory oil and gas well in Surrey is lawful

Protect Dunsfold Ltd is applying for permission to appeal against the High Court’s ruling that it is lawful for the government to allow an exploratory oil and gas well to be dug in Dunsfold near the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Posted on 09 August 2023

The campaign group, represented by law firm Leigh Day and supported by the Good Law Project, is applying for permission to appeal the decision handed down on 8 June 2023, arguing that the potential levels of CO2 produced by this development were not considered properly. 
Before Protect Dunsfold launched its legal case, Surrey County Council had refused the planning application for the exploration well. However, UK Oil & Gas (UKOG) appealed to the Secretary of State at the time, Michael Gove, and a decision was made on his behalf by the Minister of State for Housing, Stuart Andrew MP, approving the plan for the exploratory project to go ahead. 
Following this, Protect Dunsfold approached Leigh Day to bring the case against the government, arguing that more consideration should be given to National Planning Policy Framework rules protecting such areas and that Mr Andrew’s decision was inconsistent with a decision made about a similar application determined on the same day, relating to an exploratory well in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. That application was refused by the Local Government Secretary due to the high levels of greenhouse gas emissions that it would entail. 
The Dunsfold development would produce greater greenhouse gas emissions than that of the rejected Ellesmere Port plan, yet the Dunsfold drilling has been allowed to go ahead.
Protect Dunsfold believe that their case should be reconsidered as CO2 emissions were a key factor in the decision to reject the Ellesmere Port plan, yet they argue that this factor was not considered for the Dunsfold development. 
Leigh Day will shortly submit an application to the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal.
Sarah Godwin, Director of Protect Dunsfold, said:

“There is a glaring inconsistency in the Minister’s decision that greenhouse gas emissions at Ellesmere Port are a material consideration resulting in a decision by him to refuse planning consent whereas the same Minister on the same date ignored virtually the same amount of emissions at Loxley. 

“The planet can’t distinguish between greenhouse gases emitted in Cheshire and those emitted in Surrey. As the Climate Change Commission said in a quote referred to by the Minister in the Ellesmere Port case, 'every tonne of carbon contributes towards climate change’.

“Existing Government policies which prioritise oil and gas exploration are an exemplar of institutional climate denial. The recent announcement from the Prime Minister that his Government will ‘max out’ UK’s oil and gas reserves is putting the UK in direct conflict with international experts; low-cost, low-carbon technologies already exist that can supplant fossil fuels. These should always be the core of any national strategy to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

“Protect Dunsfold believes that any fossil fuel exploration project, even on a small scale, is one too many and we will continue to fight to stop UKOG 234 Ltd from putting a spade in the ground at Loxley.”
Jennine Walker, Legal Manager at Good Law Project, said:
“Against the backdrop of the Government’s assault on net zero and its North Sea oil and gas licensing extravaganza, this is a hugely important step from Protect Dunsfold and we are proud to support their application to the Court of Appeal.

“UKOG’s plans to drill the Dunsfold site will see irreparable harm to the natural habitats and landscape on the edge of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, as well as producing significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions.

“Success in this appeal will have impacts far beyond the village of Dunsfold and it could make it much harder for fossil fuel schemes to go ahead”.
Leigh Day solicitor Ricardo Gama, who is representing Protect Dunsfold, said:
“Our clients have begun the process appealing the High Court’s worrying decision. They believe that there is an important legal principle at stake, which is whether local authorities and the Secretary of State can ignore greenhouse gas emissions when weighing up the public benefits of an exploratory drilling proposal such as this, in a context where greenhouse gas emissions were a reason for refusing a very similar development at Ellesmere Port.”

Ricardo Gama November 2021
Climate change Environment Judicial review Planning

Ricardo Gama

Ricardo specialises in environmental claims and planning law

News Article
Human rights Environment

Protect Dunsfold considers appeal after judges dismiss its challenge to decision to allow exploratory oil and gas well in Surrey

Protect Dunsfold is considering an appeal after the Planning Court dismissed its legal challenge to a government decision to allow an exploratory oil and gas well to be drilled in Dunsfold near to the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

News Article
Environmental law

Protect Dunsfold wins permission for statutory review of decision to allow exploratory oil and gas well in Surrey

Protect Dunsfold has been granted permission by the Planning Court to legally challenge a government decision to allow an exploratory oil and gas well to be drilled in Dunsfold near to the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).