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Ex-Cabinet minister Jeremy Hunt has reacted with fury after the Government gave the go-ahead for gas drilling in his leafy Surrey constituency.
The former health secretary, who this week publicly declared his opposition to Boris Johnson, today lashed out at a decision to allow gas exploration near the village of Dunsfold.
Mr Hunt branded the move ‘wrong both economically and environmentally’ and urged ministers to reconsider the approval.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), announced on Tuesday it had overturned Surrey County Council’s refusal of planning permission for a project planned by UK Oil & Gas Plc.
The site will sit near Dunsfold Aerodrome, which is best known as the location of the former test track for TV motoring show Top Gear.
The DLUHC decision was revealed a day after Mr Hunt put himself at the forefront of efforts to topple Mr Johnson as Prime Minister in a no confidence vote among Tory MPs.
The one-time Conservative leadership candidate had urged his party colleagues to opt for ‘change’ from Mr Johnson’s leadership in the crunch vote.
Jeremy Hunt, who this week publicly declared his opposition to Boris Johnson, lashed out at a decision to allow gas exploration near the village of Dunsfold
The decision was revealed a day after Mr Hunt put himself at the forefront of efforts to topple Mr Johnson as Prime Minister in a no confidence vote among Tory MPs
The site will sit near Dunsfold Aerodrome, which is best known as the location of the former test track for TV motoring show Top Gear
In a letter to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Mr Hunt said he was protesting ‘in the strongest of terms’ against the department’s decision to allow the gas exploration.
The South West Surrey MP told Mr Gove that ‘ignoring the strength of local opinion goes entirely against the Government’s commitment to the devolution of powers and strengthening local communities as well as our net zero commitments’.
‘It goes against your personal and long-standing commitment to localism and has caused enormous anger and disappointment across all political parties locally,’ he added.
‘In addition, with the Government’s commitment to reaching net zero, its recent welcome announcements regarding the move to nuclear and renewable energy, and the continued moratorium on fracking, I cannot see how this site has any role to play in our future energy supply needs.’
Mr Hunt claimed it would ‘take years to ascertain if there is anything worth actually drilling commercially’ at the site, adding: ‘By which point we will be well on our way to reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.
‘In short it will create enormous disruption and environmental damage for little if any economic benefit.’
Fellow Tory MP Angela Richardson, who represents the neighbouring Guildford constituency, offered her ‘full support’ to Mr Hunt’s protest.
Ms Richardson also voted against Mr Johnson in Monday night’s no confidence ballot.
‘I supported neighbouring Alfold Parish Council in my constituency in their objections, when the planning application came before the committee at Surrey County Council,’ she posted on Twitter.
Housing Minister Stuart Andrew informed Mr Hunt that he was responsible for the DLUHC decision as Mr Gove had recused himself from having a role as he himself represents a Surrey constituency.
Mr Andrew told Mr Hunt he would be ‘happy’ to meet to discuss the issue.
In a letter to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Mr Hunt said he was protesting ‘in the strongest of terms’ against the decision to allow the gas exploration
Surrey County Council said it was ‘disappointed’ that the plans will be going ahead.
‘The Secretary of State has allowed the appeal and granted planning permission for the construction, operation and decommissioning of a well site for the exploration and appraisal of hydrocarbons, for a temporary period of three years at land south of Dunsfold Road and East of High Loxley Road, Dunsfold,’ a spokesperson said.
‘The Council is disappointed that the committee’s refusal was not upheld.’
Stephen Sanderson, the chief executive of UK Oil & Gas, said: ‘We welcome this decision and its backing for Loxley’s gas as a secure, sustainable energy source with a far lower pre-combustion carbon footprint than imports.
‘Backing UK domestic gas makes strategic, economic and environmental good sense.
‘We look forward to moving the Loxley project forwards and to working constructively with the local community.’