Leith Hill

Leith Hill

Surprise announcement

The long running and high profile campaign against oil drilling at Leith Hill in Surrey is celebrating success after Europa Oil and Gas announced it was pulling out of the site.

The decision by the company followed a decision by the Forestry Commission not to renew the lease which expires on September 12th. Campaigners including the Green MEP Keith Taylor had been keeping up the pressure on the Forestry organisation not to renew in line with its environmental commitments.

“This is fantastic news”, said Lucy Barford on behalf of A Voice for Leith Hill. “Leith Hill has always been a completely inappropriate location for oil drilling, in addition to the overall issue that we should be leaving all fossil fuels in the ground. Local campaigners have been fighting Europa’s plans for a decade and we are overjoyed that the Forestry Commission and the Government minister have finally seen sense and put a stop to the horrendous prospect of oil being drilled in such a beautiful and vulnerable environment. There will be other battles ahead, oil drilling is still planned for other sites across the Weald, but for now we will be celebrating the fantastic news that there will be no oil drilling at Leith Hill. It has cost thousands of pounds to fight this and many hours of effort. Thanks to all who saw sense in the end and stopped this highly damaging plan going ahead.”

The Leith Hill Action Group had fought a campaign for nearly 10 years through the planning system and in the courts against the proposals. A Voice for Leith Hill had recently harnessed people power to lobby the Forestry Commission about the lease. The Environment Agency granted a permit to drill even though over 100,000 people signed a petition against it.

A Protection Camp was set up on the site in 2016 and moved across the road after being evicted in 2017. It has provided an information and campaign base since then.

“It’s been a combined effort of so many people – both local and from further away - over such a long time. It really is an extraordinary success”, said Lucy Barford.

Read the statement released by Europa Oil and Gas here LINK

A voice for Leith Hill

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Campaigners against oil drilling on Leith Hill have slammed the grant of an exploratory drill permit by the Environment Agency.

Over 103,000 people had signed a petition to the Environment Agency about concerns over drinking water pollution and two separate independent experts submitted detailed evidence about the risks.

But the Environment Agency has now approved the permit – subject to all other permissions being granted. Planning consent for the site in Coldharbour Lane runs out on August 7th and Europa Oil and Gas is in the process of applying for an extension. The Traffic Management Plan involving hundreds of HGV movements in the narrow and historic tree lined lane has been the main sticking point.

Julian Everett of community group, A Voice for Leith Hill: said: “It’s sadly symbolic that just before this year's Earth Overshoot Day - when humanity will have used more from nature than our planet can renew in the entire year – this permit has been granted by the government agency responsible for protecting our environment. The EA has decided to permit activities that will exacerbate climate change and jeopardise our drinking water supply in an area that is currently experiencing unprecedented levels of seismic activity.

“The EA claims activities will be closely monitored, yet despite several site visits they were unaware of an entire side-track being illegally drilled at Brockham - drilling that was conducted by the same company that now has the farm-out deal at Leith Hill. Instead, once again it is going to fall to the citizens of Surrey to do the job these publicly funded professionals should be doing: of protecting our environment and communal resources, and of upholding the will of local democracy”.

Europa Oil and Gas has spent ten years trying to get its permits for the exploratory 18 week drill but bitter opposition by the local community and local councils has meant that no drilling has started.

To sign the petition please visit >>> LINK

Calling all bird lovers to witness one of nature’s most beautiful spectacles

Leith Hill woodland in May credit John Millar 957548

Dawn Chorus Walks at Leith Hill

The National Trust has a lot to celebrate this year. From the 250th anniversary of the construction of Leith Hill Tower, to one of nature’s most beautiful delights – the dawn chorus. Forming one of the highest points in the Surrey Hills, Leith Hill is a great tapestry of rich ancient woodland and open heathland, both of which entice migratory and local birds, all of whom sing to their heart’s content at this special time of year. May mornings are especially glorious at Leith Hill as dawn comes early; its sounds echoing through the beautiful rhododendron glades and bluebell-carpeted woodland. This year the National Trust is inviting guests to join them for an early start to witness this spectacle for themselves with keen ornithologist and National Trust Ranger, Sam Bayley.
Leith Hill Tower credit John Millar 957557
Sam, Lead Ranger for Leith Hill says “Although the dawn chorus can be heard all year round, the end of April and early May is when it’s at its peak. It’s the beginning of the breeding season and our resident birds are in full song and they are joined by our returning summer visitors from Africa, all keen to stamp their claim on the variety of habitats that Leith Hill has to offer. In the Rhododendron Wood we are likely to hear and see the majority of our woodland birds such as woodpeckers, warblers, finches and thrushes, whilst up at Leith Hill Tower we may get lucky and see red kites and ravens. This time of year is very exciting for me as we wait with baited breath to see if all of our hard work over the winter months to improve habitats encourages our wildlife to thrive”.

Join Sam for a dawn chorus walk, and hot breakfast roll, on Sunday 26 April or Sunday 10 May. Both events start at 5am and last until 8am and cost £15 per person. Tickets need to be booked in advance by calling 01372 220644. Dogs on leads very welcome.

About Leith Hill
Leith Hill is the highest point in south east England and is set within the beautiful Surrey Hills. Its gothic tower rises majestically above the surrounding hills and from the top you can see sweeping views towards London in the north and the English Channel in the south. Leith Hill has been popular with visitors since the Victorian times and you can enjoy similar pastimes today but with a modern twist; visit our tower and peer through the free telescopes or follow our self-guided trails through ancient woods, the scented Rhododendron Wood and across open heathland. There’s plenty of space for family adventures and many lovely spots for picnics too. Delicious light snacks are available from our Tower’s servery. More info here >>> www.nationaltrust.org.uk

About the National Trust
The National Trust is one of the most important nature conservation organisations in Europe with over 1,000 sites covering 250,000 hectares, including coastal sites, woodland and upland areas; many of which are rich in wildlife. In Surrey alone, the National Trust looks after 5,620 hectares of land and 3,305 hectares of countryside. Find out more here >>> www.nationaltrust.org.uk

Both images Credit John Millar
Surrey’s Premier Lifestyle Magazine