Oil production plans for South Downs National Park open for comment


Source: Barton Willmore for UKOG (GB) Ltd

The South Downs National Park has published plans by UK Oil & Gas Investments for 20 years of oil production at Markwells Wood in West Sussex.

A public consultation will last for five weeks until 28 October 2016 and the application will be discussed at a special meeting of Stoughton parish council on Monday (3 October 2016).

The application includes drilling a new horizontal well from the existing borehole at the site, as well as up to three additional production wells and a water disposal well.

Application details

DrillOrDrop has picked out key facts from the planning application. The full documents can be read here. In future posts, we’ll report on reaction to the application and its progress through the planning system.


Site operator: UKOG (GB) Limited

Agent: Barton Willmore LLP, Cambridge

Application reference: SDNP/16/04679/CM and link

Proposed site

Address: South Holt Farm, Back Lane, Forestside, Stoughton, West Sussex

Size: 1.58ha

Location: 600m north of the village of Foreside and 1.3km east of West Marsden

Nearest homes: 565m away

Site access: Joins public highway east of Northwood Farm, on the north side of Forestside, 100m west of the junction with Stansted Park Road

Protected landscapes: In the South Downs National Park

Landscape Character Area: Stansted to West Dean Wood Estate Downland

Nearest designated wildlife site: Pads Wood Site of Special Scientific Interest, 4km to north east

Nearest heritage: Three Grade II listed buildings at Buckleys (0.6km), North Farm House and a barn. Stansted Park Grade II registered park and garden are 0.9km to the south.

Flooding: Flood Zone 1 – low risk of flooding

Site description: Hard standing of existing wellpad with a capped well, storage containers, bunded former storage tank and access road.

Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence area: PEDL126


Image: GoogleMaps

Planning history

January 2009: West Sussex County Council granted initial planning permission for site construction, drilling, testing for oil and restoration (SO/3152/07).

2010-2011: Well site constructed and drilled.

2011/2012: Testing confirmed presence of oil

January 2013: Extension of planning permission

November 2013: Extension of planning permission

October 2015: Extension of planning permission

Development proposals

The application is for 25 years, including 20 years for oil extraction

Site enabling works

  • Create passing place on access road
  • Construct compound
  • Install welfare cabins

Total duration: 28 days


Drilling rig for side-track well. Source: Barton Willmore for UKOG (GB) Ltd

Phase 1 – appraisal and drilling

  • Mobilisation of 37m workover rig – 2 days
  • Permanently sealing and abandoning bottom of MW-1 well with cement plugs at 5,400ft-4,900ft and 4,300ft-3,800ft – 4-10 days
  • Workover rig demobilisation – 2 days
  • Mobilisation of 37m drilling rig – 4 days,
  • Drilling 3,280ft (1,000m) horizontal side-track well – 36-40 days
  • Acidisation – 4 days (including mobilisation, set-up, operation and demobilisation)
  • Rig demobilisation – 4 days
  • Construction of extended well test facilities – 120 days
  • Extended well test of MW-1 – 6-12 months

Working hours: Deliveries 7am-7pm Monday-Friday, 7am-1pm Saturday. Operational hours 24 hours, seven days a week

Total staff on site: 23-33, including security

Waste: Any gas would be flared and produced water exported by road tanker

Fencing: 2m high wooden and wire mesh

Phase 2 – production

  • Rig mobilisation – 4 days
  • Drilling of water injection well – 30 days
  • Drilling three additional wells (MW-2, MW-3, MW-4) – 132-140 days
  • Rig demobilisation – 4 days
  • Construction of production facilities – 180 days
  • Production for up to 20 years

Working hours: Deliveries 7am-7pm Monday-Friday, 7am-1pm Saturday. Operational hours 24 hours, seven days a week

Total staff on site: 23-33, including security

Fencing: 2.4m high wire mesh security

Waste: Any excess gas would be used to generate heat and electrical power to be fed into the grid. Produced water and site rainwater reinjected via injection well.

Produced oil: Crude oil would be stored on site before being loaded for transport to the Holybourne rail terminal where it would be sent to the Fawley oil refinery.

Phase 3 – restoration

At the end of production, the wells would be plugged and abandoned and the site restored.

  • Workover rig mobilisation – 2 days
  • Plugging and abandoning of wells and restoration of site – 38 days
  • Workover rig demobilisation – 2 days

Total staff on site: 10-14


The application says the maximum number of two-way heavy goods vehicle (HGV) movements per day will be 20. This will be during mobilisation and demobilisation of the rigs.

During the 20-year production period, the application predicted “a minimal increase in traffic volumes” from the site.

According to the application, the construction phase “would lead to a temporary increase” in traffic on the proposed traffic route. On average, it suggested an increase in traffic movements of up to 16 two-way vehicle movements per day, or an extra 1.5%-2% on local roads.

The total number of lorry movements for each phase is very difficult to calculate from the application because movements are not listed for every phase of the operation. The estimated duration for each operation also varies between different documents in the application.

Based on information in the application, the following heavy goods vehicle (HGV) movements are estimated:

Site enabling works

10 two-way HGV movements

Phase 1: appraisal and drilling

  • Drilling rig mobilisation: 20 two-way HGV movements
  • Abandoning bottom section of well, drilling side-track and acidisation: 520 two-way HGV movements
  • Drilling rig demobilisation: 20 two-way HGV movements
  • Construction of production facilities: 1,200 two-way HGV movements
  • Extended well test: 720 two-way HGV movements

Phase 2: production

  • Rig mobilisation: 80 two-way HGV movements
  • Drilling water injection well: 300 two-way HGV movements
  • Drilling three production wells: 1,400 two-way HGV movements
  • Rig demobilisation: 80 two-way HGV movements
  • Construction of production facilities: 1,800 two-way HGV movements
  • Production of oil: 7,300 two-way HGV movements

Phase 3: restoration

  • Plugging and abandoning wells and site restoration: 20 two-way HGV movements


The application anticipates maximum daytime noise day of 55 decibels and 42 decibels at night during mobilisation, demobilisation, drilling and the extended well test during the day. During production it says there will be no increase over current background levels.

During site preparation, the application said:

“Noise would be mitigated at source and will include preventing the unnecessary revving of engines, switching off equipment when it’s not required, minimising the drop height of material, and starting up plant and vehicles sequentially rather than all together.”

During drilling, it said woodland between homes and the site would reduce noise levels at night. Traffic noise was described as “not significant” compared with current road traffic.

During production, the application predicted noise at nearby homes would be “very low and inaudible even on clam nights.

Ecology and nature conservation

Nearby habitat: semi-natural ancient woodland, scrub and standing water

Species: bat foraging and commuting; two active badger setts within 30m; nest sites for bird species in surrounding habitats.

Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation: 9 within 2km

Disturbance: The Non-technical summary concluded that emissions in phases 1 and 2 “may cause some disturbance to adjacent habitats”. But it anticipated “negligible effect” on habitats and “minor adverse effect” on bats. The effect on badgers was anticipated to be “moderate adverse” and an updated survey was recommended. According to the application, vibration and noise could deter reptiles and birds.

Impact on views and landscape

The Non-technical summary concluded

“There are no significant effects predicted on the Stansted to West Dean Wooded Estate Downland LCA. The woodland surrounding the site encloses and visually separates it from the undulating rural farmland such that the potential for effects on the LCA will be very localised”.

The application identified “some significant effects” on tranquillity and special qualities of the South Downs National Park. But noted “the site itself is not unspoilt”, it lies “within an intensively managed agricultural environment” and the “effects are fully reversible”.

It said the drilling rig would be seen from Northwood Farm, 720m to south west, and a barn 690m to south west. The also said the rig would be “perceived as conflicting with a small part of the surrounding wooded ridges. But “this will be temporary and not significant”.

Water and flooding

Site surface water features: None

Nearest pond: approx 750m at Northwood Farm

Flood risk: In Flood Zone 1 – low/very low risk of river or surface water flooding

Groundwater flood risk: some potential in low lying areas because of permeable geology

Foul water: Treatment on site or transported by tanker to disposal/treatment facilities. The application concludes that effects on water quality and flood risk would be negligible.

The application predicted the impact on groundwater quality would be negligible

National Park objectives

The applicant argued that the proposal met National Park objectives of enhancing the environment and promoting opportunities for understanding.

This would, it said, be achieved by:

“mitigating and designing out of impacts on the environment and enhancing measure for understanding the geology that underpins many of the special qualities of the National Park.”

The application argued that it fostered socio-economic wellbeing, another National Park duty, through

“the provision of minerals that will support the transport methods the National Park and its economy is dependent on.”

Site selection

The application said it had identified 12 possible sites for oil production in PEDL126. Of these, 10 were not considered appropriate because they could be seen from public rights of way and could not easily be screened. The Markwells Wood site was chosen because it had previously been “considered acceptable” for an oil operation.

Link to application

Updated 4/10/2016 to amend closing date and duration of public consultation.

This report is part of DrillOrDrop’s Rig Watch project. Rig Watch receives funding from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. More details here

12 replies »

  1. It does not look like they have allowed for disposal of water by tanker in Phase 1. They have only allowed for export of oil not any hazardous waste. Number of HGV movements could treble if they produce a lot of water.

  2. Well noticed Mike, of course we know there are no waste disposal sites for this sort of dumping of HIGHLY HAZARDOUS waste in the UK, so perhaps we should all be writing to the EA and the council to find out where they are goin to allow dumping of the water, other wise we could all end up living near toxic sludge.

    the other worrying feature is the violation of the tory line telling us no AONB or NP will be fracked, yet they are allowing oil extraction willy nilly all over the place with little disclosure about any of the hazards encountered nationally. Given the nuclear dumping in Sellafield is cause for concern over leakages, we cannot be assured the EA has even brass standard regs, let alone pretend gold plated ones.

    Exceedingly worrying is the line about :- “mitigating and designing out of impacts on the environment and enhancing measure for understanding the geology that underpins many of the special qualities of the National Park.” [edited by moderator] then we learn North Yorks AONB, governed directly by the gov not localy, is to extend to Orton AONB Cumbria and Kirby Lonsdale Lancs, all carefully calculated to deftly roll in fracking from East to West coast along the Bowland Shale route, full justified by this drilling application for the National Park we all hold dear.

    You can’t buy National Parks, they take millennia to unfold and develop, yet someone with oil interests and lobbying government, is managing to get planning acceptance to desecrate the most beautiful landscapes in the UK in order to grab dirty fossil fuels.

    • You can’t buy National Parks – but you can certainly buy large chunks of them. Check out the grouse shooting industry.

  3. The Tory Government has been paving the way, courting the gung Ho fracking companies for years and this is the result. Fracking in National Parks and AONB is akin to an environmental crime! They don’t even mention how they will dispose of the toxic waste fluids; perhaps they think most people are conveniently unaware of how toxic and invasive hydraulic fracturing actually is! British, or atleast those living in England, have also conveniently been occupied with other problems e.g. The referendum, zero hour working conditions etc.etc And all this before the CETA and TTIP toxic trade deals come into effect (though hopefully they will not)! I cannot remember a more ruthless and destructive Tory Government. It is clear they are ruled by Fossils fuel lobbyists (as well as Big Business) and don’t seem to give a damn about the environment or communities living around the targeted areas. Well, they are a minority now. The three progressive parties in the UK and the SNP have declared themselves to be against fracking.
    If fracking does go ahead, we all know that the damage caused to the environment and even to people’s health is irreversible. The Tories will NEVER be forgiven and will ALWAYS be remembered for laying waste a country that was once revered for its National Parks and Areas of Outstanding National Beauty.

  4. They won’t frack Markwell’s as they are using EOR techniques in phase 2. Oil coming out of the ground will be replaced by water going in = natural balance.

    • Certainly a recent National Treasure as more dry oil lerks BENEATH which can be naturally extracted by an oil pad the footprint of a farmers barn within a wood . So not much of a desecration as you imply, but certainly adds to local employment chances (c 40 on site and transport jobs for 20 years) and the young hopefully being now able to purchase the houses abandoned by those unable to deal with minor & strategic change.

  5. I have three particular concerns:

    Traffic noise: The number of heavy lorries going to and from the site is worrying. Also, it is probably a conservative estimate. At the consultation it came to light that a very large volume of water would be taken out at an early stage and this would be removed from the site by HGVs. It would then be stored somewhere and then brought back again and pumped back down the well at the end of its useful life. Furthermore, note that the report quotes the lorry movements in return journeys. One return journey means two journeys, two passes, twice the disturbances of local people and wildlife.

    Secondly, the quotation of noise is given as a number of dBs. However, this is not qualified. Where and how would they take this measurement? In fact, dBs alone don’t tell the whole story anyway. The nature of the sound has a significant on the disturbance and annoyance. A single robin or wren can make a remarkable amount of noise, but nobody minds it! Industrial noise is another matter,

    Thirdly, the roads which they propose to use are not suitable for a lot of heavy traffic. They are light country roads which have been widened in the past. The edges already tend to break away slightly even with the light traffic they get. Furthermore, at least one of the roads that would be used has for a long time been used by horse riders.

    This is a quiet country area rich in nature. It should remain so.

    • I would have thought the locals would be worried about the vibration more than the noise. 30 to 40 tonne loads travelling down country lanes would not be my idea of fun if I owned a property close to the road edge. Just hope they observe the height limit in Dean Lane under the rail bridge.

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