Objectors to controversial drilling plan are being ‘kept in the dark’

Horse riders demonstrate at Forestside earlier this year Photo by Christopher Ison
Horse riders demonstrate at Forestside earlier this year Photo by Christopher Ison

The oil drilling company behind the controversial plan in the South Downs National Park (SDNP) at Markswell Wood has been accused of hiding information despite a pledge to be transparent.

The plan has been submitted by UK Oil & Gas Investments for the conventional production of oil, incorporating the drilling of one side track well from the existing well, three new hydrocarbon wells and one water injection well. It wants to produce hydrocarbons from all four wells for 20 years at the Forestside site between South Harting and Stoughton.

But objectors have accused UKOG of not being straight with them.

On questions about which chemicals it plans to inject, the reply from UKOG’s community relations officer, Brian Alexander was: “Details of the drilling fluids: composition and volumes will be included in the EA application, as required.”

A statement from Markswell Wood Watch, the residents group formed to fight the plans said this was in direct contrast to what UKOG top officer Stephen Sanderson told the public consultation at Forestside on July 14.

“He said he would immediately disclose the names of all the chemicals they plan to use. This was over 100 days ago. It now appears the company is in fact refusing to disclose the chemical names until after the national park authority (SDNPA) decide whether to grant them permission.

“If they get permission they would only then disclose the names of the chemicals in their application for environmental permits to the Environment Agency (EA).

“Residents believe this shows UKOG cannot be trusted. They are also concerned allowing UKOG to keep the names of their chemicals secret until after the planning permission vote, the SDNPA will be lacking critical scientific information and the public will be kept in the dark until it is too late to object.”

Objector Ann Stewart said: “I find it very worrying UKOG are trying to attain planning permission in this manner. They promised transparency but are acting like they have something to hide. I hope the SDNPA reject the plan. It is clear they and the public have not been given all the facts.”

The SDNPA is due to decide the plan in January.

Have you checked out our new Christmas section yet?

It’s packed with ideas and tips to ensure you make the most out of the festive season.

There’s recipes, suggestions for presents and everything from choosing your tree to recycling your packaging and paper.

Go to www.midhurstandpetworth.co.uk/christmas/