Leith Hill Action Group – Newsletter 19 (1st August 2013)      

Stop the Leith Hill oil drilling!

Hello and welcome to LHAG’s latest campaign newsletter

I’m sorry to say that this newsletter brings bad news about the High Court action by Europa to quash the Inspector’s decision.  After a day and a half of legal debate at the Royal Courts of Justice on the 23rd and 24th July, the judge announced his decision on Thursday 25th July.  He concluded that the planning inspector had erred in his interpretation of planning law in forming his decision following the public inquiry held in July 2012.  The inspector’s decision to refuse Europa’s planning application has not therefore been upheld.

The judge decided that contrary to the findings of the inspector, and contrary to the arguments put forward by the Secretary of State’s and LHAG’s barristers, “mineral extraction” as defined by planning policy includes “mineral exploration”. 

The inspector had specifically noted that regardless of whether or not mineral extraction was deemed to form part of mineral exploration, the green belt conditions of “openness” and “permanence” would be undermined by the oil exploration and therefore planning permission should not be granted.  The judge, however, decided that the initial interpretation by the inspector about “exploration” also brought into question the inspector’s other conclusions.  As such, the judge quashed the inspector’s decision.

So what next?

We met with our barrister yesterday and there are a few options open to us.

One hard-fought piece of rear-guard action brought about by our barrister at the High Court hearing is that LHAG have won the right to appeal.  This was not straightforward, and took some persuasion before the judge agreed to it. 

We are still considering our options but the fight is not over – Europa do not yet have permission to explore for oil!

Life after appeal

Appeal aside, it is certainly not the case that we move directly from this quashing of the inspector’s decision straight to Europa being granted permission to undertake oil exploration.  Firstly, the Secretary of State must decide whether to order a fresh public inquiry or not.  We understand that this is the mostly likely next step.  He also, however, has the option to “recover the appeal”, and make his own decision as to the outcome of the planning application; in this instance, a second public inquiry would still go ahead, but the planning inspector would only make a recommendation as to the outcome, not a binding decision.

In the event of a second public inquiry, LHAG would once again play a full, independent part.  We have learnt from the first inquiry, and would focus our aim accordingly.  Once again, we will look to win.  Once again, however, we will need to look to you all – and others – for support.

We also need Surrey County Council to play their part.  We have been hugely disappointed by the absence of support so far.  Please pressure your local councillors to fight this planning application in the future.

LHAG’s financial position

Our request for funds in the last newsletter was met with a fantastic response, and over £3,000 has already been raised!  A big thank you from all of us at LHAG for this.  We still have a way to go, however, to pay our legal bills. 

Most importantly, losing at the High Court means that the fight goes on.  We are in a similar position now to that at the beginning of last year, facing the need to raise resources to fight on.

I know that it is hard to ask for funding having had this latest set-back, but please do continue to support us, because we are not giving up! And a reminder that in the event that we have surplus funds at the end, we will be refunding monies to all donors in proportion to the amount given, subject to a minimum refund of £10 and subject to having contact details.

Full details of how to donate can be found on the “How to Donate” page of our website, www.lhag.org.uk, or just click this link.  Alternatively, the information is also below.

Donating by Direct Transfer

You can make a direct transfer to the LHAG account (name “Leith Hill Action Group”) using sort code 09-01-27 and account 3767 8874.  

Donating by Cheque

Make cheques payable to “Leith Hill Action Group” and send to:

Patrick Nolan, LHAG, Oak Lodge, Anstie Lane, Surrey, RH5 6HA. 

Donating by Credit Card, Debit Card or PayPal

You can donate by the card of your choice or even directly from your PayPal account by clicking the button below.  (Some email packages may not allow you to see/use this button without further intervention.  If this is the case, please visit the donation page of our website, where you will also be able to donate using this facility.)

 

However you donate, please do provide us with your name, address and email in case we have the chance to return surplus funds.  You can do this by sending us a letter to the Oak Lodge address above or by email to LHAG@hotmail.co.uk.

Thank you for your generous responses to our fundraising appeals to date, and I hope you feel able to support us once again.

We will, of course, continue to update you with more news as and when we have it.

Patrick Nolan

The Leith Hill Action Group