Campaigners take fresh stand over bid to drill for oil in South Downs

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OUR water supply and roads must be protected.

So say campaigners against controversial plans to drill for oil in South Downs National Park.

Apart from the water issue, one of the concerns is, the roads near there are not safe enough

Jacinta Neal

Waving placards and armed with a ‘no drill, no spill, protect our national park’ banner at Portsmouth’s Guildhall Square, families voiced their disapproval over the bid by United Kingdom Oil and Gas Investments PLC (UKOG).

It’s applied to the South Downs National Park Authority to extract oil for the next 20 years at Markwells Wood, Forestside, near Rowlands Castle. Families say the ‘rewards’ aren’t worth it – and the impact on traffic was a big concern. Forestside resident Jacinta Neal said: ‘Apart from the water issue, one of the concerns is the roads near there are not safe enough.

‘They are narrow, used by ramblers, and having horse riders, cyclists and big lorries on the same road would be a major environmental hazard.

‘The amount of effort that would have to be put in, what with the amount of pressure that would need to be put into the ground, it’s not worth the rewards.’

Judith Haworth said: ‘I am a cyclist and my children go up the road where one of these HGVs would be coming down.

‘On some days, there would be 40 vehicle movements. Lots of cyclists are encouraged to come up to the park on their bike.

‘It’s incredibly dangerous.’

Ukip councillor Stuart Potter said: ‘It’s a threat to the water supply and the fact the company set up to start the exploratory work, I think is just a front for the bigger companies.’

A Ukip-led plan was accepted at a council meeting urging the chief executive to write to the South Downs National Park Authority and the MPs for Havant and Chichester highlighting concerns.

UKOG, meanwhile, insists it would be using ‘environmentally-friendly’ processes to extract oil, adding: ‘The existing oil well at Markwells Wood, which was drilled in 2010 and flowed oil for over six months during 2011 and 2012, had no impact on the chalk aquifer.’