Retention of the Albury wellsite and access track for the production of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and electricity including: temporary flaring to re-establish gas flow, the installation of CNG production plant and equipment within the wellsite compound and also a tanker loading area, site office, lighting, security cameras, gas powered generator, coolers, generator control room, knock out pot and WC; and retention of a transformer unit, switch room, water tank, temporary parking area and perimeter fencing all on some 1.51 hectares for a temporary period of 15 years with restoration to commercial forestry.
Samantha Murphy, Principal Planning Officer
Alan Stones, Planning Development Control Team Manager
Nancy El-Shatoury, Principal Solicitor
No one registered to speak
Key points raised during the discussion:
1. The Principal Planning Officer introduced the report and the update sheet tabled at the meeting. The Chairman allowed the Members of the Committee 10 minutes to read the provided update sheet. Members were informed of what equipment would be placed on the site and where, geographically, the site was based. It was noted that a flare would be used on site for seven days, construction would complete within three to four months and the production phase would last approximately 15 years. Tankers would visit the site daily to collect the natural gas. The Principal Planning Officer highlighted that the application was not for fracking and that they had not received any technical objections.
2. It was noted that this was a good example of the benefit of a site visit as it gave Members a greater understanding of the application and would allow them to make a more accurate decision.
3. The Officers were questioned if there was still a condition on the application for the submission of a Construction and Environmental Management Plan to which the Principal Planning Officer confirmed that Condition 1 was proposed to deal with the requirement.
4. A Member of the Committee raised concerns with the widening of the road to allow parking and the impact it would have on surrounding woodlands. It was asked if any alternatives had been considered and if the passing area on the road leading to the site was absolutely necessary. The Principal Planning Officer confirmed that the road had already previously been widened and plans were not to make any more physical changes. In regards to the passing area it was explained that it was necessary to allow vehicles to pass each other. The Principal Planning Officer noted a suggestion to add website links to reports so readers could find referenced material with more ease.
5. A Member asked if any gas transport alternatives had been considered in regards to the energy efficiency of the site in which the Principal Planning Officer confirmed that a pipeline was considered, to transport the natural gas, but the laying of the pipeline would cause more ecological damage.
6. A discussion was had around the necessity of extracting the natural gas from the ground in which the Planning Development Control Team Manager confirmed to the Committee that it was a government policy to extract natural gas where possible.
7. A Member pointed out that the roads around the site were currently used by a large number of road users and the additional heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) would be insignificant.
8. A Member raised a concern that the local forestry Commission in using petrol fuelled plant or machinery could be dangerous if within the vicinity of the site. It was asked that officers take this into consideration.
9. It was queried whether the Surrey Hills Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) office comments had changed much between the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) application and the current application to which the Principal Planning Officer responded that the concern raised regarding the LNG application was for the potential for a loss in tranquillity; and whilst the AONB Office still have concerns about tranquillity they currently raised no objection.
10. A discussion was had around the times of day in which the site would be operational in which it was noted that two HGVs may enter the site per day to collect the natural gas and that it would take 10 hours for each to load. A Member highlighted that this would mean that for 20 hours a day and seven days a week the site would be operational. The Officer confirmed this but added this may not always be the case.
11. Some Members of the Committee mentioned that Surrey County Council should be leading by example in not using energy sources that could potentially harm the environment and should be looking into other sources of renewable energy. The Planning Development Control Team Manager responded by saying that government policy is to maximise the reserves of natural gas in an environmentally acceptable manner and that Members should consider this.
1. That application GU15/P/02110 be PERMITTED subject to conditions set out in the report and update sheet.
2. That an additional informative be added, to read as:
The applicant's attention is drawn to the need to communicate and liaise with the Forestry Commission with regards to the use of petrol fuelled plant or machinery used within the vicinity of the application site.
Actions/further information to be provided:
Michael Sydney declared a personal interest in that he was Chairman of Surrey Hills Board.