In The Woodland Trust’s “Planners Manual for Ancient Woodland and Veteran Trees, (the accepted guidance for buffer zones), the Trust recommends a minimum buffer of 50 metres.
“As a precautionary principle, a minimum 50 metre buffer should be maintained between a development and the ancient woodland, including through the construction phase, unless the applicant can demonstrate very clearly how a smaller buffer would suffice. A larger buffer may be required for particularly significant engineering operations, or for after-uses that generate significant disturbance.”
The Applicant is only providing a buffer of 20 metres between the site and the boundary of the Ancient Woodland and it has so far failed to offer any explanation as to “how a smaller buffer would suffice“.
Waverley’s Environmental Officer has expressed concern about emissions and their impact on the air quality in the immediate vicinity of the site.
The countryside around Dunsfold is currently remarkable for the lack of light pollution blighting it. If planning permission is granted that will change completely as the Applicant proposes 24 hour working with artificial lighting and some flaring of gas. Should this become a permanent production site this impact/disruption will also become permanent.
This hydrocarbon field is known to contain hydrogen sulphide as it was found at Godley Bridge by Conoco in the 1990s. There are currently credible reports of a “bad eggs smell” coming from the UKOG site at Horse Hill which suggests that H2S could be being released there. UKOG hasn’t specifically assessed the risk of Hydrogen Sulphide escaping during the drilling so the impact on its own workers, the nearby residents (including the Traveller Community) and the wider public. Note: this is a separate issue from the concerns expressed by the Waverley Environmental Health Officer.
At night the countryside around Dunsfold and Hascombe Hills is quiet and still. Noise which may not be remarkable or remarked upon during the day can see very intrusive at night when the background noise levels drop. The noise from some of the 24 hour operations at the site will be particularly penetrating at night and cause a nuisance for local residents, particularly those in the nearby traveller community at Lydia Park.
In fact Waverley’s Environmental Health officer is also concerned about UKOG’s experts’s approach to assessing the noise impact and challenges UKOG’s method of assessment and conclusions. The officer says “The report concludes with a suggested night time noise limit of 45dB LAeq, 1hr at receptor locations be imposed. Against measured background levels (LA90) as low as 19dB” this limit is considered highly questionable and I do not agree with the conclusion that “noise levels are considered to be acceptably low” when the existing noise climate is taken into consideration”.
Take it from us, 19dB is really low so permitting up to 45dB is going to be more like trying to get to sleep in the middle of a big city. One noise expert on the web says about 40dB to 55dB “Adverse health effects are observed among the exposed population. Many people have to adapt their lives to cope with the noise at night. Vulnerable groups are more severely affected.”
So who is vulnerable? The Traveller Community for a start.
This is already a water stressed area and large numbers of new houses being built in the immediate area is going to add to that. The Applicant has not made it clear how much water its operations are going to require or where that is going to come from and whether it will be mains water or brought in by tankers.