Northern Petroleum eyes Markwells Wood
1st July, 2008
A decision to allow the destruction of an ancient woodland suggests the UK’s environmental policies are crumbling at the first hint of oil, says Sarah Lewis
The rolling hills of the South Downs are to become the latest victims of what may be the UK’s last great oil rush. With the price of oil peaking at $135 (£68) a barrel, even the smallest reserves are becoming hugely profitable, and oil companies have begun cashing-in on an area known as the Weald Basin, encompassing Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex and Kent.
Markwells Wood, an 11-hectare ancient woodland on the Hampshire-Sussex border, is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) within the proposed South Downs National Park. Despite this, West Sussex County Council (WSCC) recently granted planning permission to Northern Petroleum to spend three years prospecting for oil and gas there.
The application received scores of objections, most notably from the council’s own ecology and landscape departments.
WSCC ecologist Don Baker made an ‘ecological objection to the placement of a drilling rig within ancient woodland’, quoting the local planning authority’s own guidelines that it ‘should not grant planning permission for any development that would result in its loss or deterioration unless the need for, and benefits of, the development ... outweigh the loss of the...
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