9 December 2017
Stop the Leith Hill oil drilling!
Firstly, we have an enormous thank you to say for your response to Newsletter 55. Your donations plus promises to underwrite losses have so far totalled more than £15,000! That’s an incredible achievement in just over two weeks.
It still gives us another £10,000 to aim for, however. So if you’ve been meaning to make a donation, we would be very grateful to receive it. We know that the donation button in the last newsletter caused problems for some people. Our suggestion is:
1. If you have a PayPal account, you can use it to transfer money directly to email@example.com
3. Send a cheque payable to LHAG at Oak Lodge, Anstie Lane, Coldharbour, Surrey, RH5 6HA
And what are we doing with the money? Read on to find out. We have news about our application for Judicial Review, but before that, however, we need to talk about the Traffic Management Plan (“TMP”).
Update about the Traffic Management Plan
In the last week, many local residents have received a letter from Europa about this. In this letter, Europa claim:
“The TMP has been revised... in order to respond to concerns raised during what has been a thorough and extended planning consultation process.”
As you are no doubt aware, this is utter nonsense. The TMP has barely been touched in substance since its original form as seen and rejected by the Inspector in the 2015 Public Inquiry. During that time, this is the first attempt by Europa to seek any public consultation about it whatsoever.
LHAG sent a five-page word letter containing the key problems with the current TMP to the chair of the Surrey County Council Planning Committee on 6 November. Our covering email noted that this was a “list of questions and issues which we believe need to be answered or resolved before your Committee can rationally approve a Traffic Management Plan for Europa’s development at Bury Hill Wood”. These were all issues that had repeatedly been raised by LHAG in the past.
On 29 November, Europa finally met with Capel Parish Council, plus a representative of LHAG. It appeared that Europa had not been shown or otherwise asked these questions by Surrey County Council. Following that meeting, the chair of Capel Parish Council Planning Committee wrote to Europa reiterating the importance of these matters being dealt with and saying the following:
“Every one of the issues set out in the note has been raised with Surrey County Council by us, by Leith Hill Action Group, or by others. It is unfortunate that many of these concerns and questions appear not to have been passed to you by officers. Neither, presumably, was Leith Hill Action Group’s request in September this year to meet with your traffic consultant to work through these issues, specifically to speed up the process of getting a workable Traffic Management Plan, and thus avoid endless iterations via the Planning & Regulatory Committee.”
Given this background, it is remarkable that Europa think they are in a position to declare “a summary of the key parts of the TMP”. “What TMP?” we ask.
What is more, this letter appears to be a further sly attempt to compromise the legal process, since Surrey County Council have already agreed that consultation regarding the proposed TMP should come through Capel Parish Council. Europa are trying to bypass the agreed procedures, a classic “divide and conquer” move. They presume that if they just write to a few residents, they can say that they have engaged with the community. Furthermore, they know full well that no-one receiving those letters can be expected to be as familiar with the detail of the TMP as LHAG and Capel Parish Council, meaning they expect they won’t receive in-depth responses about the TMP’s many flaws. Do not let them get away with this. We are much stronger together!
We request that if you get one of these letters, you please email the originator, James Court, using firstname.lastname@example.org with the following message and signing off with your name and address. Please also attach the document attached to this newsletter (which is the letter they already have containing our list of key outstanding problems).
Dear Mr. Court
“In regards to your letter about the proposed Traffic Management Plan for drilling off Coldharbour Lane, I have the following comments:
Firstly, I completely refute the suggestion in your letter that the TMP has been revised to respond to the concerns raised during the consultation process. To that end, please respond to the list of issues raised with you about the TMP by Capel Parish Council and LHAG, all of which remain outstanding. These issues represent fundamental flaws in the current TMP, meaning there is no way it can be implemented in its current form. I have attached the said list of issues.
Secondly, please deal with this matter via the proper channels. This means consultation with Capel Parish Council, who represent the whole of the affected local community, and LHAG, who, as an official consultee to this process, represent wider community interests. It does not mean sending letters to selected individuals.”
Update about the Judicial Review
Following a meeting with our barrister a few weeks ago, we submitted our Pre-Application Protocol Letter to Surrey County Council, informing them of our intention to take their planning decision on the fencing application to Judicial Review. Surrey County Council then had to respond to that letter.
Once in receipt of their response, we were able to have a final think through of our case to get our thoughts in order before a conference call with our barrister on Thursday morning. After a very productive call, and a final discussion amongst ourselves, we gave our barrister the go ahead on Thursday morning that we wanted to proceed with the Judicial Review. Our extremely dedicated and hard-working barrister then spent Thursday afternoon drafting our Statement of Facts and Grounds, a document which essentially outlines our case.
On Friday, after the LHAG team had reviewed the first draft of that Statement, our barrister finalised it. One of the LHAG committee members then had the unenviable job of trekking into London to sign the Statement and hang around the Court to file it.
It is not a straightforward process! However, it is now done and it is over to Surrey County Council to submit their response. After that, we wait for the Judge to make a decision as to whether to grant permission for the Judicial Review. Watch this space! But in the meantime, from all of us at LHAG, may we wish you an enjoyable Christmas break and a happy New Year. And we thank you as always for your continued support. We couldn’t do this without you.