Horse Hill – Surrey’s climate battleground

XR and others demonstrate outside the planning committee meeting

In July 2019, Surrey County Council joined the flood of Councils signing ‘climate emergency’ motions and setting targets for reaching net-zero carbon emissions.

Surrey committed to an aim of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 – as well as to support businesses and others to lobby the government for help in meeting greenhouse gas reduction targets.

But two months later, on 11 September, Surrey’s Planning Committee gave the go-ahead to plans for four more oil wells and 25 years of oil drilling at Horse Hill, near Horley.

This makes a mockery of the climate emergency motion. To meet climate targets, we need a rapid transition away from fossil fuels – not to open up new sources.

Surrey’s planners, and the seven Conservative councillors who voted this through (only two councillors, both Liberal Democrats, voted against) clearly don’t understand the word ‘emergency’. The Planning Officer’s report which guided the decision made outdated claims about the ‘need’ for oil and was based on climate policies dating from before the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Horse Hill will be a standard by which Surrey’s climate plans are judged. Campaigners are seeking legal advice on how to challenge this misinformed decision through the courts. A peaceful, non-violent, climate-based protest is planned for the autumn – watch this space.