In a decision published yesterday, the Conservative government announced it will grant planning permission to explore for gas in Dunsfold, by the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). It comes despite concerns raised by the local community and environmental campaigners about the damage the drilling could do to the countryside and the UK’s climate ambitions.
In a report by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove admits that “there are significant harms to the character and appearance of the landscape from the proposal,” and that it would “degrade the quality of the setting of the AONB.” However, he concludes this is outweighed by the benefits of gas exploration.
Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said: “It is shameful that the Conservatives have ignored the concerns of local communities and given the green light to oil and gas drilling in the Surrey hills.
“Michael Gove must reconsider this reckless decision which risks doing irreparable damage to our treasured countryside while undermining efforts to tackle the climate emergency.
“The best way to improve energy security is to wean ourselves off fossil fuels, by investing in renewables and insulating people’s homes. Instead this Conservative government is trashing our environment by allowing oil drilling in green fields for years to come.”
Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Guildford Zöe Franklin said: “I am appalled that the Conservative Government has given the go-ahead for oil and gas drilling in the Surrey Hills, ignoring the clear view of local councillors, campaigners and residents who have been fighting against it from the start.
“This shows the Conservatives are completely out of touch and do not care about the environment or the health and wellbeing of our local communities.
“The planned drilling will cause the destruction of ancient woodland and have an irreversible impact on the landscape and neighbouring area of outstanding natural beauty. It will also impact protected species and other local wildlife.
“There is still time for the Conservatives to stop this wanton vandalism against our precious green spaces in the Surrey Hills by reversing their decision, but they must act now.”