Leith Hill Action Group – Newsletter 15 (20th January 2013)           

Stop the Leith Hill oil drilling!

Hello and welcome to the first newsletter of a new start to our campaign.  This newsletter is all about what we are doing in response to Europa’s challenge in the High Court to overturn the Planning Inspector’s decision after the Public Inquiry.

Before that, however, I first need to tell you about our new website addresses.  You now have the choice of www.lhag.org.uk or www.lhag.eu – either will take you to the same place – but the old address is now no longer active.

LHAG’s Immediate Reaction

Shortly after our fourteenth newsletter, we went to see our barrister.  This was a fruitful trip, because we came out of that meeting with a firm grasp of what the review process was all about and how we as a group could play an effective part.  We also left feeling greatly buoyed about our chances of success.

So How Does the Process Work?

A judicial review is a multi-faceted affair.  The challenge is against the Secretary of State – that’s who the Inspector was representing in the Inquiry and so a challenge against the Inspector’s decision is actually a challenge against the Secretary of State.  

The department of the Secretary of State’s first job is to decide whether to defend the challenge at all.  Their solicitors make an initial assessment before passing it on to a barrister.  This barrister will also take into account witness statements from other co-defendants as well as the Inspector’s own comments before recommending whether the case should be defended or not.  The barrister’s recommendation is likely to be followed.

Surrey County Council are also named as co-defendant, but, despite an attempt by County Councillor Hazel Watson and LHAG to galvanise the council into action, they have indicated that they currently intend to play no further part in the proceedings.

So What Can LHAG Do?

Our barrister advised us that LHAG can apply to be a co-defendant.  This would have a number of advantages, including an ability to provide a witness statement to the Secretary of State’s barrister, with the aim of persuading him that the case should be defended. 

The other great advantage would be an ability to present our own case via our own barrister in the review itself.  The review is purely a legal process, challenging the basis behind the Inspector’s decision.  Given that this decision was made on the basis of an issue presented only by LHAG in the Inquiry, we believe that it is crucial that we continue to play as active a part in the proceedings as possible.

What Happens Next?

You’ll be pleased to know that LHAG have pressed on and submitted our own application for co-defendant status.  We believe that this should be granted and so, as part of the process, we have submitted a witness statement.

We will keep you informed as things happen, so watch this space for future updates! 

Patrick Nolan

The Leith Hill Action Group