FRACKING could be heading to the area as the first application for exploratory drilling is submitted to South Downs National Park.
Celtique Energie wants to drill on the West Sussex/ East Hampshire border.
And campaigners fear if shale gas is found, it will only be a matter of time before Havant, Rowlands Castle, Horndean and Petersfield are targeted because they share the same geological characteristics.
Fracking is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at intense pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas inside. It uses millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals to force the gas out.
Campaigners fear it will destroy the countryside and pollute the aquifers – though Celtique says it is safe.
Owen Plunkett spent 30 years campaigning to set up the South Downs National Park to protect it from such explorations and development.
Mr Plunkett, from Waterlooville, said: ‘This is something I’m very concerned about. There are all sorts of reasons against it.
‘It will produce more carbon dioxide. And it will take so much water that it will have to be brought in on tankers down narrow country lanes.
‘As a result, the water supply is likely to be polluted by various chemicals they use.
‘It’s frightening, very worrying, because this could be the first of many.’
There is already exploratory work going on in Rowlands Castle, Horndean and Singleton, in Chichester, for conventional gas and oil.
Permission for these sites was given before the South Downs National Park Authority became operational in April 2011.
Geoff Davies, chief executive officer at Celtique Energie, said: ‘If our proposed exploration well is approved, we would be the first company to drill at depth in the centre of the Weald Basin.
‘This would enable us to confirm whether commercially viable levels of oil or gas are present, and to what extent they could contribute to the nation’s energy security as a significant untapped source of indigenous energy, along with providing jobs, tax contributions and a return for our investors.’