Appeal Court judges divided over unlawfulness of decision to allow new Surrey oil wells

Friday 18 February 2022

Marc Willers QC of Garden Court Chambers, leading Estelle Dehon QC of Cornerstone Barristers, is acting for campaigner Sarah Finch, instructed by Rowan Smith of Leigh Day.

See judgment here: Finch On Behalf of the Weald Action Group, R (On the Application Of) v Surrey County Council & Ors [2022] EWCA Civ 187

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Court of Appeal judges were divided over an appeal brought by campaigner Sarah Finch in which she argued that Surrey County Council acted unlawfully when it decided to grant planning permission for new oil wells and oil production at Horse Hill near to Gatwick Airport in September 2019.

Sarah Finch has campaigned with others against the proposed expansion of the Horse Hill site, which would result in oil production well into the 2040s, including five drilling cellars, four hydrocarbon production wells, four gas-to-power generators, a process and storage area and tanker loading facility, seven oil tanks, each with a 1,300-barrel capacity and a 37-metre drill rig.

In the judgment handed down yesterday one of three judges agreed with Sarah Finch and intervenor Friends of the Earth that the council should have assessed and considered the “downstream” greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that will be produced by the burning of 3.3 million tonnes of oil that is likely to be extracted from the Horse Hill wells over the next 20 years before it decided whether or not to grant planning permission for the proposed development.
However, the other two judges disagreed and the case was dismissed.    
This has been reproduced from a Leigh Day press release. See the full release here.

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