Alton Climate Action Network has sounded the alarm over plans to resume oil extraction at the Avington field in the South Downs National Park near Alresford after a break of more than five years.

The South Downs National Park Authority turned down planning permission in June 2020 for five more years of operation at Avington – with planners warning it would fail to conserve the National Park and would create an unwelcome precedent for further oil and gas development.

But a planning inspector overturned the decision at appeal in December 2021, ruling it would have an “acceptable” environmental impact.

UK Oil & Gas (UKOG) has now announced the Avington Joint Operating Committee has formally agreed to restart oil production at the field.

Prior to oil extraction halting in 2017, the Avington field had produced 0.276 million barrels of oil. However, it is estimated as much as 59 million barrels could be lying dormant under the South Downs at Avington.

Alton Climate Action & Network (ACAN) is now calling on Hampshire County Council to do all it can to resist further oil extraction in the South Downs.

Eleanor Hill, in a letter to county councillor for Alton Town, Andrew Joy, on behalf of ACAN, said: “It has come to our attention that the licence for oil extraction at Avington has been renewed effective until December 2026. 

“This seems to us to be totally inappropriate and short sighted considering the horrifying climate records being broken around the world this year.”

The ACAN spokesperson added the group’s own door-to-door surveys this summer have revealed that 97 per cent of respondents are concerned about the climate crisis and are well aware that radical changes are needed.

“If you are to truly represent the people of Alton at county level, then rest assured you have a mandate to pull the plug on fossil fuels and to support and invest in renewable energy,” she added.

Cllr Joy had not responded to ACAN at the time of writing.