Horse Hill: A walk around the UK’s biggest onshore oilfield

Reigate & Banstead and Mole Valley Green Parties held a walk and picnic on Sunday 28 June, to see the site near Horley where potentially vast oil reserves stand to be exploited. Nicky Dodgson reports.

Walking through Surrey countryside

Walking through Surrey countryside

Along the way, local ecologist Dan Simmons spoke to us about the potential impacts on ecosystems, saying it would be difficult for Surrey’s rare species such as the smooth snake and the sand lizard to go unaffected by oil exploitation.

Noting the popularity of ‘biodiversity offsetting’ in current environmental policy, he pointed out the difficulty in assessing the ‘value’ of a site in terms of the ecosystem services and habitats it provides, then creating something of the same ‘worth’ nearby. Can newly-planted trees which may offer homes to the same species be considered the same as an ancient woodland being cut down?

Different ways to bring about change

Listening to ecologist Dan Simmons

Listening to ecologist Dan Simmons

More people joined us at our picnic overlooking the Horse Hill site.  Lunchtime speakers included Rob Basto, of Frack Free Surrey, who talked about the important role direct action can play in environmental politics, when people decide to stand up for something they believe in.

New member and Young Green Emily gave an impassioned speech about how our government is letting down the younger generation by failing to protect our shared planet.

Green Borough and County Councillor Jonathan Essex gave insight into his experience on Surrey County Council’s Planning Committee, highlighting how using political processes and direct action can be complementary.  Writing to councillors, for example, can be effective – and we saw just how effective the day after our walk, when County Councillors in Lancashire refused planning permission for fracking there, despite heavy pressure from the government to allow it.

Pete, an activist with Reclaim the Power, described some of the inspiring anti-fracking actions he had been part of or witnessed, including at the camp previously at Horse Hill itself last summer, when test drilling took place.

Fight for a clean energy future

Keep fossil fuels in the ground!

Keep fossil fuels in the ground!

We took the time to take a good look at the currently picturesque site proposed for devastation by oil drilling (and potentially affected by airport expansion too, given its situation right next to Gatwick).

Contrasting the fields through which butterflies accompanied us on our walk with the pictures of fracking sites in the US Dan had shown us earlier, and the discussions we’d had on the risks of fracking, and the need to leave fossil fuels in the ground to prevent catastrophic climate change, all highlighted the clear and desperate need to protect Horse Hill and fight for a clean energy future.

If Lancashire can do it, so can Surrey.

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2 Trackbacks

  • […] A group from two local Green Party branches visited the Horse Hill site on Sunday.  You can read a report on the Reigate & Banstead Green Party website […]

  • By Talking #ClimateSense on November 19, 2015 at 12:54 am

    […] also opposing oil drilling, which is on the cards locally at Horse Hill (near Horley) and Leith Hill (near […]

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