Markwells wood watch
Community funded website in opposition to oil production at Forestside, West Sussex
We are a group of local residents concerned about plans to extract oil using horizontal wells and acidisation in the South Downs National Park.
GILLIAN KEEGAN - LOCAL MP
"All non-fracking drilling will be treated as permitted development..."
"All non-fracking drilling will be treated as permitted development, expert planning functions will be established to support local councils, and, when necessary, major scale planning decisions will be made the responsibility of the national planning regime.” Conservative Manifesto 2017
Dear Friends of Markwells Wood Watch:
We wanted to share a recent letter written by fellow campaigner in the Weald:
If the Conservatives are re-elected, you’d need no more planning permission to drill an oil well than to put up a modest conservatory or shed. The Conservative manifesto proposes to make any ‘non-fracking’ drilling for oil and gas ‘a permitted development’ – one of those minor works you don’t need to bother the planners about. And that would fire the gun that would pepper the Weald of Sussex and Surrey with oil wells.
‘Non-fracking’ is what is currently proposed across the South East of England. It covers any oil or gas prospecting that does not fall under the new definition of fracking. In the 2015 Infrastructure Act, fracking was strategically redefined by an oil and gas-friendly government according to the amount of water used. (It should be defined as the act of fracturing the rock with pressurised fluid.) 44 per cent of the thousands of wells that have been fracked in the USA would not be counted as fracked under this new UK definition!
If it doesn’t count as fracking, then none of the UK’s fracking regulations and ‘safeguards’ apply. When ‘not fracking’, you can drill shallower wells (as at Balcombe) and, as the government recently confirmed, ‘non-fracking’ activities can take place from wells drilled from the surface of protected areas, such as National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
One oil company CEO has talked of wells ‘back to back’ across the Weald of Sussex and Surrey, drilled down and out horizontally, over and over again. The targets are an unyielding shale called Kimmeridge limestone, or micrite. Geologists call such rocks ‘tight’ or ‘unconventional’ because the oil can’t flow through them at a worth-while rate. Oil men talk of ‘stimulating’ them - by hydraulic fracturing (fracking), acidising or acid fracking (injecting hydrochloric acid and other chemicals to dissolve passageways through ‘tight’ limestone-rich rock). Acidising the Weald would bring the same negatives as fracking, heavy traffic, air and water pollution risk, a great many wells…
The oil and gas industry wants to call these new wells ‘conventional’ (like the free-flowing Weald wells of old). They feel free to do so, because all limestone and sandstone oil and gas source rocks were incorrectly redefined as ‘conventional’ in the National Minerals Planning Guidance of 2014.
Calling the Kimmeridge limestones of the Weald ‘conventional’ is a ploy to soothe public and media opinion and make this a non-issue for our planners. Although if Teresa May keeps the keys to Downing Street on June 8th, neither we nor the planners shall have any say.
ELECTION 2017 AND MARKWELLS WOOD
The Liberal Democrats, Labour and Greens all oppose or ban fracking. The Conservative Manifesto, however, doesn’t bode well for communities like ours that are under threat of acid fracking/acidsation. 2,000 people opposed this application!
Research into our unique environment helped lead to objections by Portsmouth Water and the Environment Agency. West Sussex Highways may not have opposed the application and it took a lot of communication and pressure from our local councillors and community to get them to scrutinise and finally object. Stellar research into the rare bat and bird population around Markwells Wood got the attention and objections from Woodland Trust, WS Ecology, Sussex Wildlife Trust... The list goes on.
Independent research and lobbying is imperative at all times but especially in this age of austerity. Funds for the EA and DEFRA have already been stripped by 30%. UKOG’s application to drill at Markwells Wood brought up some major issues with regard to energy and our environment. We have had meetings with planners, politicians, experts, environmental groups and they understand that this system has major flaws. Independent groups like Markwells Wood Watch are needed to campaign, research and connect the dots in a system that is lacking sufficient funds and human resources.
Fuel poverty is real but going after small reserves of dirty oil in a National Park where the aquifer is protected is not a sensible choice. We are all shocked and dismayed by the images and reports coming out of the US—great swathes of countryside ruined due to back to back drilling—we don’t want fracking in any name. Its not a good time to overrule the local authority but that is what has happened up North. And if the Tory’s have their way —this is what is exactly what is intended for the South East.
The oil and gas industry is given 1 bililon in subsidies plus 5.5 billion in public finance via low corporate taxes and royalties. The UK government has also introduced a new set of tax breaks that will cost the UK taxpayer 2.7 billion from 2015 to 2020.
This is not a case of either/or. We can import oil and gas from Norway and the Middle East at a cheaper cost than producing it in the UK. We can continue to extract oil from existing wells such as Wytch Farm while we move towards renewables AND we can have better health, education and housing while we are at it.
If you meet any of the candidates please bring these issues up. The overwhelming majority of our community has made it abundantly clear that we don’t want oil development at the cost of our environment and health. UKOG has walked away from Markwells Wood for the moment but they say they will reapply in before the end of the year. We simply can’t afford to have our rights to public consultation and planning taken away.
UKOG has withdrawn its application
PLEASE NOTE: UKOG has withdrawn their application.
We will not be demonstrating on 11th May.
THANK YOU EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU FOR YOUR OBJECTIONS AND SUPPORT.
Hold onto your objections as we may need them again in a few months time...
It was fantastic news that UKOG withdrew that application to drill in Markwells Wood. This was not a complete surprise.
Since UKOG first filed their controversial application in September 2016, over 2,000 individuals and organisations have objected to their plans to drill for oil in the South Downs National Park. The most notable objections came from statutory consultees— the Environment Agency, Portsmouth Water and West Sussex Highways. Hampshire County Council Highways had also opposed the application along with a slew of environmental organisations. All our neighbouring parishes as well as Chichester and Portsmouth City Councils also joined in the opposition.
It was very likely that the SDNP officers were going to recommend refusal of the application, and UKOG knew this. They withdrew before they suffered the embarrassment of a refusal.
UKOG have made various statements. They say they have “temporarily withdrawn” the application. They have not. The application is withdrawn. If they do reapply it will be with an entirely new application.
The company tried to blame the Environment Agency by suggesting they had put in an eleventh hour request for information and the Park Authority for not giving them extra time for more research.
The reality is UKOG was given 6 months to respond to requests for detailed information. We know they had meetings with the EA and PW directly, via telephone and email which would give them plenty of opportunity to clarify any issues. They were told to address key risks yet the new reports submitted were inadequate, erroneous and had serious omissions.
We understand that the Environment Agency rarely opposes applications outright, so UKOG must have known that their initial application was seriously flawed. Despite this, their second attempt was still weak and therefore opposed by both the Environment Agency and Portsmouth Water for a second time.
UKOG have also made statements that they are going to do additional surveys because they appreciate that "Given the potential sensitivity of the Markwells Wood site to the adjacent chalk groundwater system, it is in the public interest that this subject be investigated as thoroughly as possible prior to any further site activity.“ Their concerns about “the public interest” come rather late in the day, and only after the public put in a lot of work and research and commissioned their own hydrogeology report.
We are not sure whether UKOG intends to reapply for planning permission or whether this is a statement meant to sooth shareholders. We think that out own hydrogeological survey shows the potential risk to our water supply is real, and any further studies by UKOG are not going to change the local geology.
The extreme method of well stimulation proposed by UKOG is acidisation which is not proven to be safe to the environment or to human health. Acidising brings most of the negatives of hydraulic fracturing: traffic, road tankers, air pollution, flares, potential water pollution via spills, leaking wells and faults, processing plants, large volumes of toxic liquid waste, stress on communities. The concern is that this could have huge risks for drinking water in surrounding areas.
It is clear that water is a more valuable asset than oil in our region. It is also abundantly obvious that there is no social licence for drilling here.
We would like the Environment Agency to reconsider the Source Protection Zoning. We would also like the well pad in Markwells Wood restored to woodland, as UKOG should have done by September 2016.
If UKOG does apply again they may well try that old trick of doing it in the summer holiday period, in the hope that no one will notice. Be quite sure, we will notice!
Markwells Wood Watch will be campaigning until there is a positive resolution. We thank everyone who has supported the campaign thus far and will be in touch with further news and actions as time progresses.
Thank you to all of you who helped support Markwells Wood Hydrogeological Report. We commissioned Dr. Aidan Foley, of Environmental Geology & Geotechnical Consultants, Ltd to write the report.
Dr. Foley comes highly recommended. Aidan has many years experience in hydrogeology and understands karst aquifers. His consultancy work has involved him with previous planning issues and with other quasi-judicial processes such as adjudications of appeals over nitrate-vulnerable zones. He holds a formal post with the Ministry of Justice as a hydrological expert on their environment Tribunal, and also acts as an expert witness, particularly in relation to the forensics of environmental pollution.
In his report, A Review of Karstic Potential and Groundwater Vulnerability of the Chalk Principal Aquifer in and around Markwells Wood, West Sussex (February 2017), Dr Aidan Foley concludes:
We contend that the Precautionary Principle should be applied in this case with the highest level of environmental protection and that this application should therefore be refused.
READ THE FULL REPORT
READ THE REPORT SUMMARY
Comments on Appendix 9.1A (Hydrogeological Risk Assessment)
UKOG has submitted their revised plans, including additional information that was absent from their first attempt.
We have been told that the application should be considered at the Planning meeting on 11th May.
Last month a number of people, including us, received a copy of a letter that UKOG sent to our MP, Andrew Tyrie. It was very long. In our opinion it was also quite misleading. We have sent a detailed rebuttal to Mr Tyrie and needless to say, that had to be very long too.
View: Response to UKOG CEO's letter to MP Andrew Tyrie
In the meantime, you may remember that Sandie and Susan went to a liaison meeting with a UKOG representative in November. There has not yet been another meeting in which to present them but we will post the response.
View: Response to UKOG Forestside consultation
Newsletter: 24 Nov 2016
Dear Friends of Markwells Wood Watch
What an incredible show of support! 1,300 + objections and many objections by important consultees. Many thanks for those who objected by the official deadline of November 17th.
The local planning officer, recently informed us that the deadline is extended further and now all comments will be received until the day of the decision, which is planned for January. She also said that UKOG has been granted an extension to amend the application. The public will have three weeks after this to comment. We are hoping to get an extension as, with Christmas so close, we feel the deadline gives us very little time.
We’re relieved to see that Hampshire County Council has asked for a more robust traffic report to be conducted on the route. Now we need as many people as possible to write to our West Sussex county councilors, MP and parish councilors and urge them to get West Sussex to ask for a full traffic assessment.
Last week the Woodland Trust submitted a strong objection. The conclusion in their detailed letter of objection states:
"In summary, the Woodland Trust strongly objects to the proposed development on the basis of damage to ancient woodland. The proposed development will heavily impact the surrounding woodland affecting its potential as important habitat and affecting the distribution of valuable local wildlife populations. The proposed development will have long-lasting and permanent impacts on Markwells Wood resulting in irreversible degradation of the ancient woodland. The damage and deterioration of Markwells Wood is in contravention of numerous national and local planning policies aimed at conserving and enhancing biodiversity and the natural environment of the South Downs National Park."
This confirms much of our own response on the ecological impact. You can read our own detailed response below.
Recently UKOG has made a very belated attempt to engage with the residents of Forestside. We met with a representative from UKOG last week, and sent their detailed minutes of the meeting to local residents.
We remain skeptical about UKOG’s supposed good will towards our community. They claim that they do not need to apply for licenses until they have been granted planning permission. We think it outrageous that they would approach a community with plans to drill and risk the contamination of the local drinking water, without disclosing in full the details of the techniques and chemicals.
Their proposal will disturb so much important ecology, the local community and the people who come here to enjoy the tranquility of the park. The response from the numerous trusts and agencies that have responded all comment on mistakes and omissions in the application. They agree that UKOG have not carried out the necessary detailed studies of impacts. How can we trust a company that does not appear to take responsibility for its obligations to prioritise the safety of people and their environment?
We are holding a meeting on December 13th to consider the next phase of our campaign and welcome all to attend. We look forward to meeting many of you then.
Markwells Wood Watch
Newsletter: 8 Nov 2016
Dear Friends and Neighbours,
Things are hotting up around here and we hope you have all taken notice that your objections are being reviewed and counted. Thank you once again for all the support with this campaign—so many people to thank and truly gratifying to see the objections at 1,100 + and rising! Keep it up please — a few more days to get in your objections and to urge others to get involved. Don’t forget—you can be brief—just say you object and write two sentences: Guidelines
The major news of the week is that the Environment Agency objected!
"We are unable to support the conclusions of the risk assessment, which states that the magnitude or potential impacts is negligible. We consider that any pollution from the development could have the potential to cause very significant consequences."
Apparently it is unusual for the EA to object and this attests to the fact that UKOG has done very little homework. They have been granted an extension to file reports in time for the SDNP's review mid January. We suspect they’ll respond with a full hydrogeological survey and perhaps a few other reports which they should have presented in the first place. We’ve asked the planning officer how we will proceed with further comments and update you on these matters as news comes in.
We’ve contacted all parishes supplied by Portsmouth Water and highlighted Portsmouth Water and the EA’s objections and have urged them to do the same. This week Hambrook Parish Council joined the long list of Parishes to object. The Cowdray Estate and The Stansted Estate also objected. The application is on East Marden’s Agenda this Thursday so if you know anyone on the Council or if you live locally please make your views known.
This week’s news of yet another truck tottering on the edge of Broad Walk was convenient timing. A large lorry left the road on the sawmills side of the Stansted main entrance around the small road rise and was headed North towards Forestside. It left the road around 10 this morning, tipped over and had to be recovered by an equally large recovery vehicle (see photo lower down the page).
Thank you once again to the Rowlands Castle Association who have donated £200 for the printing of more placards. We now have a website which will be printed on the signs so that people can get further details and join our campaign.
Keep the faith!
All the very best,
Markwells Wood Watch
Please like our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/MarkwellsWoodWatch
(Application No: SDNP/16/04679/CM Markwells Wood-1 Well Site, South Holt Farm, Dean Lane End, Forestside, Rowlands Castle)
Newsletter: 29 Oct 2016
Dear Friends of Markwells Wood Watch,
Thank you to all who have taken the time to object to UKOG’s application to drill and extract oil at Markwells Wood for 20 years. 28th Oct's tally shows 700 + objections and only a handful of supporting comments.
We’ve recently been granted an extension until 17th November so if you haven’t already done so please take the time and write in to object and please spread the word to friends, families, neighbours.
As mentioned earlier, you can write a brief statement of a few key sentences. View guidelines >>
The press has been busy with weekly articles in the Chichester Observer, Midhurst and Petworth Observer, Portsmouth News and the Petersfield Post. Wave FM, Spirit FM and BBC South have also covered events and stories.
Most took notice when Portsmouth Water objected to the application: “Throughout the risk assessment the magnitude of impact on groundwater has been assessed as ‘negligible’. We do not agree with this given the potential adverse impact on the Havant & Bedhampton Springs public water supply source. Therefore, we do not accept the results of the risk assessment.” Water from our aquifer feeds into the Bedhampton and Havant Springs which is the source water over 300,000 households.
We are spreading the word to neighbouring parishes, city and county councils as well as MPs and so far have notice of objections from Compton, Elsted and Treyford, Rogate, Westbourne, Rowlands Castle, Harting, Chidham, Chichester and of course Stoughton…if you know any councillors or politicians—please urge them to put this important issue on their agendas.
Portsmouth Water, Campaign to Protect Rural England(CPRE), Friends of the Earth, South Downs Society, Sussex Wildlife Trust and Graham Warren, Hydrogeologist have objected.
Portsmouth Water’s objection highlights the issues deeply concerning to many of us— that the process in all phases involve too much risk-- from transport of hazardous chemicals, drilling through the aquifer and pumping, storing toxic waste on site and re-injecting that waste water into the ground. Link below for Portsmouth Water’s comment.
Thank you to those who have flagged up issues with the narrow and dangerous roads, weak bridge with a weight limitation on Whichers Road and a myriad other points with regard to transport. UKOG have been called out by West Sussex County Council who have stated that they can not comment on the application until a full transport assessment has been conducted. We are expecting this will lead to further delays in the process.
Please get in touch if there is anything that concerns you or if you have questions about any aspect of this development.
Please like our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/MarkwellsWoodWatch
Markwells Wood Watch
>> UKOG planning application to South Downs National Park
>> Portsmouth Water comment on Markwells Wood application
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