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Court of Appeal gives permission for judicial review of decision by council to allow drilling for oil

A campaigner has been given permission by a Court of Appeal judge for a judicial review of Surrey County Council’s decision to allow the drilling of four new oil wells and 20 years of oil production at Horse Hill, near Gatwick in Surrey.

Sarah Finch had objected to the proposed development by UK Oil and Gas for a range of reasons, including climate change.

Ms Finch claims that the council, when making its decision in September 2019, had failed to consider the direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions of the project, and the government’s Net Zero target for carbon emissions.

Lord Justice Lewison is reported to have agreed that these grounds are arguable and justify a public hearing. He said: “There seems also (albeit obliquely) to be a challenge to the national planning policy referred to in the quoted extract in para 14 of the Appellant’s skeleton argument on the ground that it is not in conformity with EU law. That is a point of some importance which ought to be considered at a full hearing.”

Ms Finch, who has raised more than £22,000 towards her legal costs, said: “I’m delighted that I am able to bring this judicial review and challenge the council’s decision to allow 20 years of oil production in a time of climate emergency. This legal challenge is happening because of the determination and generosity of so many individuals and local organisations.”

The claimant is represented by Rowan Smith and Carol Day (solicitors at Leigh Day), Marc Willers QC of Garden Court Chambers and Estelle Dehon of Cornerstone Barristers.

Leigh Day’s Smith said: “Our client maintains that Surrey Council has failed in its obligations to assess the indirect greenhouse gas impact of the use of oil produced from this development, as well as to properly consider the environmental objectives of the government’s Net Zero target before granting planning consent. Sarah Finch is rightly delighted that she has been given permission to appeal.”

When the legal challenge was first announced in November 2019, a spokesman for Surrey said: "The Planning & Regulatory Committee approved the Horse Hill application as it was in accordance with the development plan and policies laid down by Government."

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