Horseback protest against ‘danger’ of oil drilling traffic

Horse riders demonstrate at Forestside to illustrate the dangers for people on part of the route that would be taken by lorries and tankers if an oil production development is approved at Markwells Wood. Photo by Christopher Ison
Horse riders demonstrate at Forestside to illustrate the dangers for people on part of the route that would be taken by lorries and tankers if an oil production development is approved at Markwells Wood. Photo by Christopher Ison

Horse riders held a demonstration in Stoughton last weekend in protest at plans for an exploratory oil drilling site in the South Downs National Park.

Residents and members of the Markwells Wood Watch campaign group rode the route that would be taken by lorries and tankers to illustrate possible dangers to cyclists and riders if drilling goes ahead.

The plans from UK Oil and Gas (UKOG) would see up to 20 heavy goods vehicles a day making return trips along the rural roads around the village of Forestside during development.

Demonstration organiser Tracey Hodkin said: “The bridleways and livery yards come out onto that road so horse riders have to come onto that road.

“There’s going to be an accident one day. There’ll be 40 heavy goods vehicles a day on the road and then 20 years of all their increased traffic going down that road.

“We’re just raising awareness and saying remember us, we’re an important factor here as well.

“Obviously we’ll be happy if drilling doesn’t go ahead.”

A spokesperson for UKOG said that six to eight tankers would be the maximum number of tankers a day anticipated during the busiest phase of setting up the well.

The increase in vehicle numbers would be limited to various stages of set up and once operational, heavy vehicle movements would be reduced to one return trip per day.

But public rights of way officers noted that a ‘risk of conflict’ with equestrian and pedestrian road users had not been highlighted in the application.

Among Saturday’s demonstration of 20 horseriders and pedestrians was resident Emily Duncannon.

She said: “These roads are completely unsuitable for an increase in heavy lorries.

“It is impossible to pass on some stretches and downright dangerous.

“We don’t think that this type of development is suitable in our tranquil and beautiful area.”

The demonstration follows a protest by residents last week over water contamination fears. UKOG has denied there is any risk to the water source area.

The consultation period on the planning application will end on October 31.

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