The oil exploration company, UKOG, has had no right of access for operations at its site at Markwells Wood near Rowlands Castle for eight months, DrillOrDrop has learned.
In documents seen by DrillOrDrop, the owners of a piece of land that UKOG has to cross to reach the site terminated their agreement with the company in July last year (2017).
In a statement, the owners said they took the decision because of concerns that UKOG’s proposal to extract oil at Markwells Wood represented “an unacceptable risk to the water supply and public health”.
In September 2016, the company applied for permission to the South Downs National Park Authority to drill more boreholes at the site and produce oil for 20 years. The scheme included the use of acid to improve the flow of oil. The application was withdrawn in May 2017 after many objections, including those from Portsmouth Water and the Environment Agency.
Earlier this month, the South Downs National Park Authority ordered UKOG to clear the Markwells Wood site and restore it back to woodland. There has been no planning permission in place for 18 months. DrillOrDrop report
The landowners’ statement said:
“We, as the owners of the land through which UKOG gained access to their Markwells Wood site, exercised our legal right in July 2017 to terminate the Licence Agreement that allowed UKOG access to their drilling site.
“We did this because we shared Portsmouth Water’s concern that UKOG’s plans to attempt to extract oil represented an unacceptable risk to the water supply and public health of hundreds of thousands of Portsmouth residents.”
The owners said they had offered to allow UKOG access for maintenance and restoration. The statement continued:
“Subsequently, we agreed that UKOG could be granted time-limited access to their drilling site for the sole purpose of maintenance of the site and restoration.
“In December 2017 UKOG’S representatives reacted positively to this offer of time-limited access but UKOG have so far failed to respond to this offer.”
The statement concluded:
“We wish to remain anonymous for health reasons and will be making no further comment.”
Markwells Wood is one of three oil exploration sites for which UKOG is seeking an injunction against environmental protests.
The company asked the High Court last week to confirm its draft injunction orders. But the case was adjourned to allow five women who wish to challenge the injunction to prepare their cases. The court is expected to rule on the injunction in about six weeks. (DrillOrDrop report)
According to a UKOG witness statement and a map that accompanied its case, the company appeared to be seeking to apply the injunction to the entire access route to the Markwells Wood site, as well as the site itself.
The witness statement said licences with various freehold landowners “give UKOG GB the right of occupation and effective control of the site”.
DrillOrDrop invited UKOG to comment on the termination of the access agreement. We also asked UKOG whether it intended the injunction to apply to the entire access track, as well as the site. It has not responded. This post will be updated with any company comment.
After the withdrawal of its planning application last year, UKOG said it would scale back its plans and submit a new scheme before the end of the year (DrillOrDrop report). This has not yet been published.
Last week, UKOG issued a statement to investors about another site in West Sussex. Against the list of company assets, UKOG said for Markwells Wood: “Revised drilling and testing planning application underway”.
UKOG has made no formal statement to investors through the Regulatory News Service (RNS) about the cancellation of the access agreement.