Objections to drill for oil in park maintained after worries about '˜unacceptable risk' to drinking water

TWO influential bodies have stepped up their objections against the UK Oil and Gas (UKOG) bid to drill for oil in the South Downs National Park.

Tuesday, 2nd May 2017, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 8:20 pm
Campaigners want to protect drinking water from the Havant and Bedhampton Springs

Portsmouth Water and the Environment Agency said the development, in Markwells Wood, could pose an ‘unacceptable risk’ to the drinking water at Havant and Bedhampton Springs.

The spring sits atop the aquifier that feeds thousands of people in Portsmouth.

Both said the risk had not been appropriately assessed, and that in its new documentation in response to initial concerns, UKOG failed to provide enough information and data about the drilling.

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In its objection, Portsmouth Water (PW) said: ‘Currently the potential risks posed to the Havant and Bedhampton Springs and their catchment have not been appropriately understood or assessed.

‘The traffic assessment is not detailed enough to understand the potential risks of overturning lorries and spills on the highway.

‘This scenario is considered to present significant risks to groundwater quality and the underlying aquifer.

‘Until site specific information is presented, along with a robust conceptual site model and approved risk assessment, PW would maintain its objection to this development.’

So far about 2,000 objections against the drilling, which would take place over a 20-year period, have been received. Campaign group Markwells Wood Watch crowdfunded its own hydrogeological report last month.

In its own objection the Environment Agency added: ‘Evidence suggests a significant possibility the site is underlain by a network of fissures, which could allow rapid flow of chalk groundwater to the Bedhampton and Havant springs.

‘There is a risk that should groundwater become polluted from surface or deep activities, there will be little opportunity to intercept the pollutants before they reach public water.’

The South Downs National Park planning committee will approve or deny UKOG’s application on May 11.

Tim Dawes, of the Havant Green Party, said: ‘It’s simple really – no drill, no spill, continued pure water.’

UKOG were unavailable for comment.