A sigh of relief could be heard across the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty yesterday as it was announced that energy firm Europa Oil & Gas would be withdrawing from exploratory drilling at Bury Hill Wood on Leith Hill. The Government announcement that Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, has decided not to extend the lease on Forestry Commission land at Leith Hill was welcomed by the Surrey Hills Board, the body responsible for the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
Surrey Hills AONB Board Director, Rob Fairbanks comments;
“We are delighted with the Environment Secretary’s decision which illustrates the Government’s commitment to protecting the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).”
Leith Hill is iconic in the Surrey Hills landscape with the tower rising majestically above the surrounding hills, the highest point in South-East England with sweeping views towards London in the North and the English Channel in the South. Situated within the heart of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), it is home to an abundance of wildlife and a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Since 2008 when the proposal for exploratory drilling was first known, the Surrey Hills AONB Board consistently opposed it, giving evidence at two public inquiries. The ongoing threat to Leith Hill has united communities and protestors, gaining national media coverage over the years.
Rob Fairbanks continues; “It’s wonderful to see the wider community being so passionate about the Surrey Hills. The strength of feeling people have for Leith Hill highlights how much we need to work together to safeguard this special area for future generations.”