Oil drilling site opposed by Chichester councillors over water contamination fears

Protesters at Stansted opposing the Markwells Wood oil drilling plans. By Kate Shemilt ks16001125-1
Protesters at Stansted opposing the Markwells Wood oil drilling plans. By Kate Shemilt ks16001125-1

Opposition to plans for an exploratory oil well in the South Downs National Park grew this week as Chichester City Council voted to object to the application.

The controversial Stoughton scheme from UK Oil and Gas (UKOG) sparked water contamination fears that have been catalysed by an objection from a water company.

City councillors voted to oppose the plans in Markwell’s Wood, so long as Portsmouth Water was unsatisfied that risks to the groundwater source area had been adequately assessed.

UKOG has insisted that there is no risk of water contamination due to hydrocarbons, such as oil, or acidisation work.

The meeting follows a horseback protest against potential traffic issues at the site.

Speaking at last night’s meeting, Cllr Nigel Galloway said: “Narrow lanes, vehicle movements, they can’t be issues for us, they have to be issues for the National Park planning authority, but where there might potentially be a threat to the water supply of the residents of Chichester, then I think it does behold us to do something about it.”

Cllr Richard Plowman pointed out that any concerns about an oil drilling site in Singleton had been abated very rapidly and that residents there had no objections to the work.

But Cllr Jane Kilby said that the council should still oppose the application until Portsmouth Water’s objections were met.

The parish councils of Stoughton, Compton, Elsted, Rowlands Castle and Rogate have all filed objections to the 20-year project.

A spokesperson for UKOG has stated that the acid used would not have any contact with the aquifer and that all aquifer horizons will be cased and cemented off before oil is encountered.

Portsmouth Water has stated it will review its position if UKOG issues a revised risk assessment addressing its concerns.

Read more: Water supply ‘risk’ protest by South Downs National Park residents
In this week’s Observer: Horseriders warn of ‘dangerous’ oil drilling traffic at South Downs National Park

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