AN OIL drilling operation in the Horley countryside has been given the go-ahead.
The construction of an exploratory wellsite on Horse Hill, Hookwood, with a 8,000ft borehole, buildings, fencing and new access, was granted by Surrey County Council.
The application is for temporary use of up to three years – though it was proposed the site would only be operational for 20 to 21 weeks.
The Green Belt site must be restored to its original state once the three years expires.
Minutes of the planning and regulation committee meeting from November 9 concluded: “Officers believed that the site was acceptable, the application technically sufficient and that there would be no significant adverse environmental impacts of the proposed development.”
A report by county council officers to the committee read: “The proposed drillsite lies within the Weald Basin, which is known to be prospective for oil and gas.
“Seismic surveying has identified a potentially prospective geological structure, but the only way to conclusively determine the presence or absence of hydrocarbons is to drill an exploration well.”
Norwood Hill residents raised concerns over the impact and risk of heavy goods vehicles (HGV) in the rural area, crossing the A217 from the southbound lane to access Horse Hill.
During the busiest days 36 HGV movements are expected per day.
Permission was granted on the condition that site operator encouraged HGV drivers to use the Hookwood roundabout rather than the northbound carriageway at the A217/Horse Hill junction.
Residents also said there was insufficient information provided by the applicant, Magellan Petroleum.
The report states: “Nowhere does the applicant state what percentage of the drilling water is recovered back up the drilling pipe.
“Unless 100 per cent of the water is recovered and disposed of safely, there would be a risk to underground pure water reserves and aquifers.
“It is not stated where aquifers are likely to be encountered along the drilling route nor is information provided on the specific additives to be used.”
No significant environmental concerns were raised by any of the groups consulted.
The minutes of the meeting concluded: “In terms of Green Belt, the committee were informed that as this was an application for mineral working, development in the Green Belt need not be inappropriate as long as it was well maintained and restored.”