Waverley Borough Council’s executive committee has confirmed it will challenge the decision of the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to allow oil and gas exploration at the Loxley Well site near Dunsfold.

The council held a special executive meeting on Thursday, at which it resolved to proceed with the challenge at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on June 8 this year. It also agreed to authorise up to £32,500 in funds to meet the external legal costs of mounting the challenge.

Early last year, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities overturned Surrey County Council's refusal of planning consent for an exploratory well at Loxley. The council has consistently expressed its opposition to any oil and gas exploration at the site, which is adjacent to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

In March this year, the council and Protect Dunsfold, a local community group, won a High Court judgement that gave them both permission to challenge the Secretary of State’s decision.

Councillor Paul Follows, Lib Dem leader of Waverley Borough Council, said: "Drilling for oil is completely at odds with our declared Climate Emergency and similar declarations made by the County Council and the Government. This type of ‘unconventional’ oil extraction is fraught with environmental risks and has little likelihood of alleviating any of the country’s current energy concerns.

“The UK needs to immediately increase investment in renewables where we have genuine competitive advantage, such as offshore wind, rather than ripping up the Surrey Hills in the pursuit of oil and gas.”

Portfolio holder for environment and sustainability, Cllr Steve Williams, said: “At every stage in the long and tortured history of this planning application, local people have demonstrated their overwhelming opposition to any drilling for hydrocarbons at Dunsfold.  

“We have consistently supported that view and remain extremely concerned that any oil exploration at the Loxley site will lead to irreversible harm to our environment, to local businesses and to local people. Our position has not changed: we remain absolutely opposed to it in any form.”