Prospecting result ruled material to test drilling

A temporary wellsite proposed in the Surrey green belt and Surrey Hills area of outstanding natural beauty to test hydrocarbon reserves has been rejected after an inspector concluded that the scheme does not represent a sustainable form of development.

The appellants cited National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) advice that minerals are essential to support economic growth and can only be worked where they are found. The government also accepts a continuing need for fossil fuels, they argued.

The inspector agreed that the NPPF recognises that minerals are essential to support sustainable economic growth. But he held that the likelihood of finding reserves was a relevant consideration in assessing the planning balance. He noted the appellants' estimate that there was a 25 to 32 per cent chance of finding hydrocarbons at the site and uncertainty over whether these would be oil or gas, oil being considered more likely.

If oil were found, the inspector observed, it could generate up to £117 million in taxes and provide between two and four days of the UK's annual production. However, he held that these benefits had to be set against a temporary reduction in the area's openness and beauty. This harm outweighed the potential benefits, he concluded.

Inspector: Keri Williams; Inquiry

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