It's Finally Over !!

OCTOBER 2020, UK OIL & GAS plc have announced it has relinquished an oil exploration licence near Dorking in Surrey, which included a controversial site near the Leith Hill beauty spot.


The Leith Hill Action Group (LHAG) was established in March 2009 with the sole purpose of preventing Europa Oil and Gas from exploring for hydrocarbons under the small village of Coldharbour near Dorking, Surrey. The village is located within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and within the Metropolitan Green Belt. With committee members drawn from Coldharbour and Dorking, LHAG campaigned tirelessly for 11 years and attracted considerable media interest and active support locally, across the UK and even beyond.

In May 2011, with extensive lobbying by LHAG and its supporters with over 2000 letters of objection, the Surrey County Council Planning and Regulatory Committee was persuaded to overturn their officers' report and to refuse Europa’s first planning application. Then in December 2011 an appeal was lodged by Europa against that decision. LHAG was granted Rule-6 status to be a full party alongside the appellant and SCC in the first Public Inquiry, which took place in July 2012 and in which Europa were unsuccessful. In November 2012, Europa launched a challenge in the High Court with LHAG as third defendants. LHAG produced several witness statements and were represented by a barrister in the High Court hearing during July 2013. Europa won that appeal and so the Inspector’s decision from the first Public Inquiry was quashed. LHAG then took the case to the Court of Appeal and that was unsuccessful and so a second Public Inquiry with a different Planning Inspector was held for 7 days during April and May 2015. The Inspector found in favour of Europa, however the Inspector imposed 23 conditions which Europa are still attemping to comply with and LHAG is making every effort to critique and, where necessary, object to their submissions.

So currently Europa have been granted planning permission but prior to commencement they must obtain the permits necessary to be allowed to drill and conform to all of the planning conditions one of which is to provide an acceptable Traffic Management Scheme. Several new planning applications have additionally been submitted all of which LHAG are scrutinising.

Therefore 8 years on, LHAG and its supporters have successfully raised £100,000 from individual donors, families, numerous companies and Mole Valley District Council and have certainly succeeded in delaying the project.

By Europa’s own admission, there is only a 30% chance of finding any hydrocarbons and then there might be anything from zero to 5 million barrels. This would equate to the following: 3 minutes per year (for thirty years) of UK energy demand (0.0012% of UK energy demand) or 18 minutes per year (for thirty years) of UK oil consumption or 25 minutes per year (for thirty years) of UK oil production.

Our Mission

Our mission is to preserve this fragile Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and protect it from this inappropriate type of development. We believe that the same potential deposits can be explored from a less sensitive site.

A successful planning application at Bury Hill Wood will set a dangerous precedent and may well lead to other drilling operations within the AONB. The impact will be long-lasting on the beautiful and fragile natural environment surrounding us. This is why we have been fighting so hard for over 8 years and this is why we are hugely grateful for your support as we couldn’t have got this far without it. 

Our Objective

To continue to object to new planning applications and submissions for planning conditions in the same way that we convinced Surrey County Council to refuse the original planning application (see Documents).

We believe that less sensitive sites exist, served by more robust infrastructure to cope with the associated HGV movements.  It is not our intention to 'sterilise any potential deposit' by preventing exploration as we appreciate the national need to secure domestic energy supply.  The applicant should undertake any temporary exploration activity in a responsible way, avoiding any long term damage to the local environment, even if it involves extra cost. 

Whilst the application is for temporary operation, there is no doubt that there will be permanent environmental damage, especially to Coldharbour Lane, and significant disruption to residents and visitors of this popular beauty spot and Knoll Road in Dorking.

And all of this is for a tiny amount of oil, even if it is found.  Using Europa’s own optimistic resource figures, we estimate that this prospect could produce at best 0.014% of UK energy demand over 25 years (i.e. little more than one-ten-thousandth of demand!).  That is if there’s anything there at all – which Europa also concede is less than a one in three chance! 

To Stay Informed

We produce a regular newsletter to keep our supporters informed.  You can subscribe to our newsletters by completing the form below.


We always need funds and if you would like to make a donation, it would be very gratefully received; please see our How To Donate page for more details.

You have responded brilliantly to our request for funds in the past:

  • We needed to have raised £50,000 by 10th July 2012 to pay for legal fees and expert witnesses at the public inquiry. WE DID IT! We actually raised over £55,000.
  • We needed to raise a further £4,500 by the end of September 2013 to pay for the High Court challenge.  WE DID THIS TOO!
  • We needed to raise £25,000 by the end of Q1 2014 to pay for the appeal at the Court of Appeal.  WE MANAGED IT!
  • We needed to raise £10,000 to cover professional fees for the Public Inquiry in April 2015. WE DID IT, OF COURSE !

In the event of LHAG being dissolved, surplus funds will be returned pro rata to our donors in the manner described in our constitution.

Contact Information

Ivy Cottage