Page last updated at 17:24 GMT, Wednesday, 15 April 2009 18:24 UK

Protesters oppose oil exploration

Coldharbour Lane
Europa said exploration would last 18 weeks

Protestors opposing plans to prospect for oil in Surrey woodlands have urged supporters to write to local councils to express their concerns.

Europa Oil and Gas Ltd is planning to drill in Bury Hill Wood near Holmwood.

The Leith Hill Action Group (LHAG) says the plans and passage of HGVs will cause damage and disruption to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Europa says an environmental impact assessment for the site was "very good" and deliveries would avoid peak times.

'Detrimental impact'

Europa said exploration would last 18 weeks and require a 35m (115ft) drilling rig.

A LHAG spokesperson said the site was located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty where development should occur only in "exceptional circumstances" and was "completely inappropriate".

The LHAG also expressed concern that Coldharbour Lane was an "unsuitable access route" and an estimated 1054 HGV movements would cause "considerable detrimental impact" to the road and banks.

The spokesperson called on Europa to conduct exploration remotely from a less sensitive area.

'Temporary feature'

Europa's Managing Director Paul Barrett said the temporary site would be purely for exploration and would be in Forestry Commission plantation to avoid impacting on ancient woodlands.

Mr Barrett said the effects of an estimated 10 HGV movements a day would be mitigated by a convoy system operating outside peak times, to prevent overtaking and reduce damage to the banks.

He said no weight restrictions currently applied on Coldharbour Lane but added that if a public road was damaged, Europa would repair it.

Mr Barnett added that it would not be practical to conduct exploration from a remote surface site since the associated technical problems would massively increase the drilling time, expense and overall impact of the exploration.

The LHAG urged supporters to write to Mole Valley District Council and Surrey County Council concerning the issue.

Surrey County Council said it would accept representations until the planning and regulatory committee met and a date for this meeting had not yet been set.

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