Leith Hill Action Group – Newsletter 12 (30th July 2012)        

Stop the Leith Hill oil drilling!

Hello and welcome to our twelfth newsletter.  And this newsletter is all about the Public Inquiry.  No appeals for help this time, just a report of the all-important two weeks of the Inquiry!  Before that, though, we would like to give heartfelt thanks to The Plough Inn for putting on their event, which raised £300, and to Leylands Farm for their garden open day, which raised £335.

So How Did the Inquiry Go?

Our defence was six months in the making.  So was it worth it?  I’m pleased to be able to tell you that the answer was a resounding, “Yes!”  At times, sitting through the Inquiry felt more like watching a soap opera, with twists and turns, ups and downs and most certainly a full cast of characters.  But by the end, this observer at least was left more convinced than ever by our case.

As it Happened

Week one started with some extremely moving accounts from local businesses and how it will affect them.  Few could fail to have been stirred by the account of how The Plough Inn will suffer, or the impact on Crockers Farm.

 Surrey County Council’s (Surrey)expert witnesses went next.  First we had a landscape expert testifying as to the unique value of the large area that will be affected by the planning application.  We heard about the importance of tranquillity to that value, as well as the sightlines that will be affected.  Surrey followed that up with a planning expert, making the case for the legal appropriateness of refusing the application.

Interspersed with this (and further throughout the two weeks) were accounts from the floor – local residents making passionate cases for why the AONB should be kept sacrosanct.  We also had the extremely eloquent planning consultant to the Surrey Hills AONB Board spelling out exactly the level of harm we were facing.

Next up were the witnesses from LHAG.  Our oil specialist reminded the inquiry how unlikely it is that oil will even be found at all (less than a one-in-three chance!) and LHAG’s chair, acting as a highways expert, demonstrated resoundingly both the likely impact on Coldharbour Lane and the complete impracticability of implementing the necessary traffic management system.

Then it was the turn of Europa’s experts.  And that meant it was the turn of LHAG’s barrister and Surrey’s barrister to cross-examine these experts.  They did an excellent job at bringing out the flaws in Europa’s arguments.

Finally, we had representatives from the Parish Council, District Council and County Council, all arguing clearly and unambiguously why they are against the application.  The Parish Council also presented their own expert, who did a fine job of expanding on the problems we can expect from the exploration process.

Conditions

Win or lose, we believe that at the very least, some hard-fought concessions have been won should the application go ahead.  We are pleased to see, for example, that Europa have given up their thirty-year conditional lease of the site and taken a three-year conditional lease instead.  They have also agreed in principal to stern conditions about the length of the project and operating hours, as well as a number of other mitigating factors. 

Whilst we still have our fingers crossed for an outright victory, these conditions show the value of LHAG fighting this application to the very end of the process.

So What Next?

The official date for hearing the result is September 14th.  We may well, however, hear sooner than that.  And as soon as we do, we will, of course, pass the news on to you.  Let’s all hope for the best until then.

Thanks for staying with us all the way through this crucial Planning Inquiry.  Thanks for helping us raise the money needed to fight it, and for all your letters and emails of support.  All that remains now is to wait for the Inspector’s decision.  Until then, enjoy the Olympics instead!

Patrick Nolan

Fundraising Committee, The Leith Hill Action Group

Summary of reasons why we are objecting to the application

Keeping in Touch

www.lhag.info

To feed back, ask questions or offer help, contact Patrick Nolan at lhag@hotmail.co.uk  

Follow our Twitter feed: @Leith_Hill_AG

Newsletter 1 (2nd February 2012)
Newsletter 2 (13th February 2012)
Newsletter 3 (1st March 2012)
Newsletter 4 (16th March 2012)
Newsletter 5 (1st April 2012)
Newsletter 6 (19th April 2012)
Newsletter 7 (1st May 2012)
Newsletter 8 (16th May 2012)
Newsletter 9 (2nd June 2012 plus important correction made 3rd June 2012)
Newsletter 10 (21st June 2012)
Newsletter 11 (5th July 2012)