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Northern Petroleum want South Downs for oil exploration

An oil company has submitted plans to build an oil exploration site beneath the South Downs.

Northern Petroleum wants temporary three-year permission to tap into potential oil reserves in ancient woodland designated an area of outstanding natural beauty.

In a proposal submitted to a council in West Sussex, the company has applied for consent to drill, test and - dependent on the findings - seek further permission for extraction or extended testing for oil.

Under the plans in West Sussex, any development would result in the loss of about a hectare of ancient woodland in an area that has been proposed for the South Downs National Park.

The company, an operator of both onshore and offshore projects, has asked to use a 36 metre-high drilling rig to bore down in search of oil in the village of Forestside, near Chichester.

Objections have been raised by a number of authorities and organisations concerned at the visual and ecological impact, and the loss of ancient woodland.

These come from Chichester District Council, the South Downs Joint Committee, West Sussex County Council Landscape, the council's ecologist and the Woodland Trust.

In their report to West Sussex County Council's planning committee, planning officers recommend approval subject to conditions as there is a "clear and overriding need for oil exploration".