The construction, operation and decommissioning of a well site for the exploration and appraisal of hydrocarbon minerals from one exploratory borehole (Loxley-1) and one side - track borehole (Loxley-1z) for a temporary period of three years involving the siting of plant and equipment, the construction of a new access track, a new highway junction with High Loxley Road, highway improvements at the junction of High Loxley Road and Dunsfold Road and the erection of a boundary fence and entrance gates with restoration to agriculture.
Due to the Covid-19 situation, planning site visits are not able to take place therefore footage of this site can be accessed on the webcasting portal which can be accessed here (select the Resources tab):
Please note, as this meeting is being held on Monday 29 June 2020, any representations received after 12.00 noon on the last working day before committee, Friday 26 June 2020, may not be taken into account at the meeting.
David Maxwell, Senior Planning Officer
Caroline Smith, Interim Planning Group Manager
Stephen Jenkins, Interim Planning Development Manager
Richard Cooper, Transport Development Planning Officer
Nancy El-Shatoury, Principal Lawyer
Joss Butler, Committee Manager
Sarah Goodwin made representations in objection to the application. The speech presented to the Committee is attached to these minutes as Annex 1.
Tom Gordon made representations in objection to the application. The speech presented to the Committee is attached to these minutes as Annex 2.
The Chairman was informed that the live stream of the meeting had stopped and therefore adjourned the meeting from 10:47am to 10:47am when it was resumed. The Chairman asked Tom Gordon to repeat his representation in objection to the application.
Ashley Herman made representations in objection to the application. The speech presented to the Committee is attached to these minutes as Annex 3.
Chris Britton made representations in objection to the application. The speech presented to the Committee is attached to these minutes as Annex 4.
John Gray made representations in objection to the application. The speech presented to the Committee is attached to these minutes as Annex 5.
The Chairman was informed that the live stream of the meeting had intermittently stopped and therefore adjourned the meeting from 11:11am to 11:28am to allow officers to investigate the issue. Once the meeting was resumed, the Chairman asked John Gray to repeat his representation in objection to the application and Nigel Moore to restart his response.
The Planning Agent / Applicant, Nigel Moore, Matt Cartwright and Stephen Sanderson made the following comments in response:
· That the remoteness of the site was key to mitigating noise, sounds or air emissions and that the wellsite would be enclosed by new native tree planting and areas of rewilding.
· That there would be no more than 10 Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) per day which would add up to one HGV movement per hour and Banksman would be used where possible. During construction and movement of a drilling rig, temporary traffic lights would be used with wait times of up to 90 seconds.
· No HGVs would be used on a Saturday afternoon, Sunday or bank holiday which meant that High Loxley road would be kept free for any events at High Billinghurst Farm.
· That County Planning Officers find the proposal acceptable as outlined in the report.
· That exploration at Loxley would help the United Kingdom to rein in overextended supply chains and return vital raw materials needed for the country’s economy.
· That achieving net-zero emissions in 2050 required economic resilience in 2020 which would only come if British businesses were backed.
· That the same construction techniques and site operations used at the Horse Hill Well Site would be used at Loxley.
· Local residents had been briefed on the planned activities and environmental practices of UKOG and that the site would be fully restored at the end of the planning period.
The Chairman was informed that the live stream of the meeting had stopped and therefore adjourned the meeting from 11:39am to 11:40am. Once the meeting was resumed, the Chairman asked Matt Cartwright to begin from his last main point which was regarding local residents being briefed on UKOG’s planned activities.
· As far as possible, local manufacturers and service providers would be used to ensure economic benefits were kept in the local community.
· That UKOG were in regular contact with the Environment Agency, the health and safety executive and the Oil and Gas Authority.
· That the Environment Agency had recently approved the permit for Loxley.
· That UKOG wanted to be a positive force in the community.
· That a review of recent small earthquakes by the Oil and Gas Authority, British geological survey and academic experts concluded that they were naturally caused.
· The wellsite would be installed to the highest standard.
· That the country controlling its own supply of gas would help control local prices and address fuel poverty and ensure manufacturing was globally competitive.
· That Loxley was a sensible and sustainable development in the public interest.
· That UKOG was a Surrey company employing mostly local people.
· That UKOG’s practices met the high standards of the Environment Agency.
· That Loxley could help fund a post Covid-19 recovery
· That using indigenous gas had several benefits compared to using imported gas.
· That oil and gas had helped the country survive the pandemic via Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), incubators, ventilator pipes, drip tubes and more which were made from petroleum products.
· That future Loxley gas would be fully compliant with net zero and Surrey’s climate emergency.
The Local Member, Victoria Young, spoke for three minutes and made the following comments:
Key points raised during the discussion:
1. David Maxwell, Senior Planning Officer, introduced the report and provided Members with a brief summary. A supplementary agenda was published on 29 June 2020 which included an update sheet for the item. Additional representations are attached to these minutes as Annex 6, 7, 8, 9 , 10, 11, 12 & 13. Members noted that the proposal for the construction, operation and decommissioning of a well site for the exploration and appraisal of hydrocarbon minerals from one exploratory borehole (Loxley-1) and one side - track borehole (Loxley-1z) for a temporary period of three years involving the siting of plant and equipment, the construction of a new access track, a new highway junction with High Loxley Road, highway improvements at the junction of High Loxley Road and Dunsfold Road and the erection of a boundary fence and entrance gates with restoration to agriculture. Members noted that the County Highway Authority had raised no objections to the application subject to conditions. Over 600 representations had been received of which 84% were in objection to the development. The full report and annexes are located from pages 7 of the meeting’s agenda.
2. Members felt that the local highway was incompatible for the vehicle movements required for both the local events business and the proposed development. Members went on to raise concerns related to the quantity and nature of the vehicles required for the local event company and when they would be used. Officers highlighted that the local events company had previously produced a transport assessment which had been recently updated and indicated that there would be 120 arrivals over the actual day of the event, with five to ten movements the day before and after the event. Officers further stated that the number of movements on the highway on days without any events was extremely low. Members noted further details on the vehicle movements included within the proposal and the localised widening to the lane as conditioned in the report.
3. Members asked for further detail on the process of enforcement and consequences to sites not following agreed travel plans. Officers confirmed that the breach of condition notice could be issued to the operator which could lead to prosecution.
4. Members stated that they felt the report underplayed the importance of the site being designated as part of the AGLV.
5. Members asked for clarification on the current situation following the council previously agreeing that AGLV designation would be treated the same as Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) designation. Officers highlighted that this matter had been assessed in the officers report in paragraphs 335 – 340 and that the adverse impact would be moderate and not significant.
6. Officers confirmed that they had taken the view that informing the Surrey Gypsy and Traveller Forum was suitable for notifying the local Gypsy and Traveller community. A site notice was also placed 300m to the south of the entrance to the traveller site for one year. Officers further stated that the impact on the Gypsy and Traveller community had been assessed in the report and considered acceptable.
7. In regards to the visual aspects of the proposal, officers confirmed that they felt they were acceptable due to the significant mitigation measures which would be put in place which would ensure the impact would not be significant.
8. Members raised further concerns that HGVs would not follow the approved route agreed with officers. Officers reassured Members that there were a number of options available to monitor this which included the use of CCTV and vehicle trackers.
9. Members stated that they believed there should be some form of air quality management due to the emissions which would be produced from the site. Officers stated that the Air Quality consultant had raised no objections to the proposals and therefore no conditions were in place regarding air quality.
10. Members felt it was required to secure a substantial bond for the use of road repairs following the use of narrow lanes by HGVs from the site and the risk of damage. Officers stated that if damage is caused to the local highway by the proposals then the council can require the applicant to repair it.
11. Members highlighted that there was a large pool of water on the way to the site and asked whether, if not properly removed, a wheel wash facility would be required. Officers confirm that this was not usual practice for these types of proposals and given the length of the proposed access track, they did not consider a wheel wash facility to be necessary.
12. Regarding local traffic, Members highlighted that the site’s hours of operation may interfere with the busy school drop off and pick up hours. Officers confirmed that the applicant had stated that HGV movements would avoid peak periods and would be spread out across the 12-hour day.
13. A Member of the Committee stated that before consent was granted the Committee needed a definitive traffic management plan to fully understand the impacts of the proposal.
14. Members asked how considerable the impact of the proposal would be on the local economy. Officers stated that the report did take into account the local economic impact and that they were mindful of the noise impacts when taking the proposal into consideration. Officers also noted that Informative 20 stated that the applicant would liaise with local businesses to minimise any impact on business.
15. Officers stated that they did not consider bunching of HGVs to be a significant risk due to the low number of HGV movements per day, the Transport Management Scheme and the use of Banksman at all times.
16. Members noted details of HGV turning circles on highways and the mitigations to be put in place to reduce the risk of damage to highway verges.
17. Members raised concerns regarding potential changes to the AONB boundaries. Officers stated that no decisions had yet been made and were not aware of when further detail would be published.
18. In regard to references to European Union (EU) in the report, officers confirmed that although the United Kingdom had left the EU, it was still bound by its laws up to the end of the transition period.
19. A Member of the Committee recommended that the application be deferred until full information was provided on the transport elements including the section 278 agreement and detail on the vehicle tracking.
20. Cllr Rivers moved a motion for refusal due to the adverse impact on the local community and businesses, local road system and the upcoming housing within Dundsfold Garden Village. It was also stated that the proposal would conflict with the council’s commitment to the climate change emergency. The Member further stated that the recent pandemic meant that local businesses should be supported more than ever and that the potential harms outweighed the potential benefit. Cllr Povey seconded the motion for refusal.
21. Officers stated that they were concerned with the level of detail discussed around highways which was an issue for the County Highway Authority. Officers further stated that Planning Law required that Members should focus on whether the application was in accordance with the development plan unless there are material consideration which indicate otherwise. Further to this, Officers reminded Members that local opposition or support was not grounds for refusal or granting and that Cllr Rivers reasons for refusal were not valid planning reasons. Officers also restated that the County Highway Authority had raised no objections to the proposal and that it was not unusual to accept a framework traffic management plan with details to be submitted later. Members noted that the Committee needed to be satisfied there were no significant adverse impacts arising from the development and that it was officers view that there were not.
The Chairman adjourned the meeting at 13:37pm until 14:18pm.
22. The Chairman asked Cllr Rivers and Cllr Povey to clarify their reasons for refusal. Cllr Rivers stated that she proposed refusal for the following reasons:
a. Significant adverse impact on the locality, specifically on highways for reasons of safety and potential damage
b. Impact on the residential community and business
c. That there was no demonstrable benefit from the proposal
23. Officers restated that the County Highway Authority were satisfied with the proposal and that the HGV movements were 20 maximum per day. The noise was within acceptable limits and was addressed in the officer’s report. Matters regarding air quality would be addressed within the Environment Agency permit and the need for the development was established in Government energy and planning policy.
24. Cllr Povey stated that the reasons for refusal should be the following:
a. That the need for drilling had not been established and that the reference to the general Government policy was not being sufficient.
b. That Surrey Highway’s Officers had declared the route unsuitable for HGVS and had placed signs displaying this in the area and anti-slip surfaces on various bends.
c. That the applicant site was within the AGLV
d. The impact on the local businesses and economy
25. A Member of the Committee felt that the discussion on this application was disturbing and highlighted to Members that if the application was refused on non-planning reasons then the cost of appeal, if successful, would be significant. Further to this in regards to the motion for refusal, the Member stated that there was a lack of highway reasons, that citing impact on businesses was not logical, that oil wells were regulated nationally, that nothing can stop clear felling of woodland if a licence was granted for that, and that the public had provided an emotional response.
26. A Member of the Committee stated that they believed it was the right choice to refuse the application and that Members should not be discouraged by the risk of the decision being overturned at appeal. The Member further highlighted that the number of objections to the application and the lack of consultation with the local Gypsy and Traveller community.
27. The Chairman called the motion for refusal which received 6 votes for, 5 votes against and no abstentions. Therefore the motion was carried.
28. The Principal Solicitor stated that there was a need to clearly set out and confirm the reasons for refusal. The Chairman agreed to adjourn the meeting to enable Planning Officers to collate a summary of planning reasons for refusal following discussions at the meeting.
Keith Taylor left the meeting 15:07pm
The Chairman adjourned the meeting from 15:07pm to 15:27pm
29. The Chairman asked Members to vote on the following reasons for refusal:
a. It has not yet been demonstrated that there is a need for the development nor that the adverse impacts in respect of Highways, noise, lighting and air quality will not be significant contrary to policies MC12, MC14 and MC15 of the Surrey Minerals Plan 2011.
30. The Chairman moved the confirmation vote on the motion for refusal of the application for the reasons outlined in paragraph 29a of these minutes which received 9 votes for, 1 vote against and no abstentions. Therefore the motion was carried.
Actions / further information to be provided:
That the Committee REFUSE application WA/2019/0796 due to the reason that It has not yet been demonstrated that there is a need for the development nor that the adverse impacts in respect of highways, noise, lighting and air quality will not be significant contrary to policies MC12, MC14 and MC15 of the Surrey Minerals Plan 2011.