Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has said he is “bitterly disappointed” after a legal ruling gave the green light to a gas drilling project in his Surrey constituency.
The site in Dunsfold, which energy company UK Oil and Gas (UKOG) wants to explore, has been the source of a protracted legal battle.
The application was approved by the government in June 2022, despite it being refused by the local Conservative council and opposition from Mr Hunt when he was a backbench MP.
Before becoming chancellor Mr Hunt said in a letter to Housing Secretary Michael Gove that the decision to allow gas drilling was “wrong both economically and environmentally”.
Now in one of the most senior posts in government, he stood by his opposition to the project after the Court of Appeal refused permission for any further appeals.
In a post on X, he said: “I am bitterly disappointed to learn that the Court of Appeal has today refused permission for any further appeal against the UKOG planning consent for the Loxley gas well outside Dunsfold.
“I stand ready to provide my assistance and support to local communities in any way possible going forwards.”
Mr Hunt’s opposition to the project will be watched closely, given he and other ministers have keenly backed plans to maximise oil and gas production in the North Sea.
He is under pressure to intervene from the Liberal Democrats, the main challenger in the South West Surrey seat.
Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player
Should the UK exploit its oil and gas? The party’s environment spokesman Tim Farron called the court’s decision a “shameful outcome”.
He added: “This Conservative government’s policies have resulted in greedy gas barons ripping up the Surrey Hills.
“They have railroaded this through the courts despite local outrage at the plans.
“Surrey’s green land is about to be torn up, proving you simply can’t trust the Conservatives on the environment.
“As the local MP, Jeremy Hunt must now intervene. He is supporting a policy which will allow his constituency to become an oilfield. Local people will be furious at his silence.”
Stephen Sanderson, UKOG’s chief executive, said: “We are pleased that Lord Justice Stuart-Smith has once again dismissed the legal challenge to our Loxley project and has confirmed that its planning consent is entirely lawful, as the company and its counsel has maintained.
“We believe that a successful project will be beneficial to local and national level energy and economic interests and is fully in keeping with the government’s hydrogen, energy security and net zero strategies.”