Oil drilling plan in Surrey woodland refused

Coldharbour Lane
Image caption Europa is deciding whether to launch an appeal against the decision

A plan to drill for oil in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in Surrey has been rejected by planners.

Europa Oil and Gas applied to drill in Bury Hill Wood, off Coldharbour Lane at Holmwood, near Dorking.

Surrey County Council's planning committee turned down the application earlier with a majority of six votes to four.

More than 100 residents attended the meeting at County Hall, Kingston. Some arrived on a specially organised bus.

The application, which had been recommended for approval by the council's planning officer, was refused on the grounds that it would have a negative impact on the area.

The council received more than 1,600 letters of objection to the scheme. Among the objectors were the National Trust, Campaign to Protect Rural England and Surrey Hills AONB.

'Close vote'

Planning committee chairwoman Marisa Heath said: "The residents presented a very strong case and they were very coherent.

"Members felt the special circumstances [in favour of the drilling] were not strong enough to carry it out on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty."

Europa MD Paul Barrett said it was too early to say whether the company would lodge an appeal.

He said: "It was quite a close vote - there was a level of support in the planning committee and the planning officers recommended it to go through.

"I'm going to wait and see what our advisers say. We have some other drilling prospects but, of course, you cannot move the hydrocarbons."

The company expects to make a decision by mid-June on whether to lodge an appeal to the planning inspector.

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