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Stop fossil fuel drilling in the Surrey Hills

Good Law Project supported legal action by a local community group to protect an important green space on the edge of Surrey Hills. They want to prevent an exploratory drilling project from taking place next to their village, which was greenlit by the Government.

Our involvement in the legal challenge has now ended.

A Government Minister may have flip-flopped on carbon emissions, but that wasn’t enough for the Court of Appeal, who have refused Protect Dunsfold the chance to challenge a gas exploration scheme in the Surrey Hills.

We’ve been supporting local campaigners as they’ve fought to stop drilling rigs rolling through their village, causing irreparable damage to businesses, landscapes and wildlife.

Protect Dunsfold wanted to argue that the Government’s decision to approve a project to drill on the edge of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is unlawful because of a key inconsistency.

In July 2022, Stuart Andrew MP, who was serving as Minister for Housing, rejected a fossil fuel scheme in Ellesmere Port because of its projected greenhouse gas emissions. The Climate Change Committee concluded in 2019 that in tackling the climate crisis “every tonne of carbon counts”.

But on the same day he rejected the scheme in Ellesmere Port, the Minister gave the green light to the project in Dunsfold, even though it is expected to generate an even greater amount of carbon dioxide.

Despite this glaring mismatch, the court has blocked Protect Dunsfold’s appeal. It ruled that the Ellesmere Port decision was sufficiently different and there was therefore no obligation for the Secretary of State to take it into account.

This is another kick in the teeth after Rishi Sunak’s backsliding on climate commitments and the fossil fuel bonanza he’s unleashed in the North Sea. The Tory Government is also facing a backlash from some of its own MPs over its proposed Oil and Gas Licensing Bill.

We are very grateful for the support we received to back Protect Dunsfold’s legal challenge. But a further appeal in this case is not possible.

In spite of this hugely disappointing ruling, Good Law Project will continue to fight for our climate. It’s more important than ever that reckless gas and oil drilling is stopped in its tracks. We’ve teamed up with Friends of the Earth and ClientEarth to take the Government to the High Court next month over its threadbare strategy to reach net zero.

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