A CAMPAIGNER said it was “idiotic” to suggest drilling for gas in the South Downs National Park would not deflate house prices.

Industrial drilling in the Weald would increase traffic, deter visitors and reduce the quality of life, John Buchanan of Frack Free Fernhurst has warned.

The Valuation Office Agency, which values properties for council tax, has admitted commercial activities such as fracking could cause house pricing estimates to be downgraded.

The rural village of Fernhurst is subject to a fiercely contested planning application by Celtique Energie to test drill for shale gas.

Mr Buchanan said: “The difficulty with this business is it involves a great deal of traffic and will require multiple sites across the Weald.

“Its idiotic to assume the threat of such activity is not going to have an effect on house prices. Anyone who says otherwise is fibbing.”

Mr Buchanan said the case of an elderly lady recently run over and killed by a lorry in Midhurst was an example of the clash of heavy vehicles and rural life.

He said: “It makes your blood run cold to think of the hundreds of more lorries that would be in the area.

“It’s an industrial activity. The truth is its going to degrade all of our amenity.

“We’re in a national park but nobody will want to cycle along our roads because they will be competing with dirty great lorries.”

Backers of drilling say it will revolutionise Britain’s energy needs but opponents say all the accessible gas in the Weald would only be a two-week supply.

Chris Hebert, of Hamptons estate agency in nearby Haslemere, said: “If someone’s got something going on 24/7, people will not buy their house.”

Ken Cronin, chief executive of UK Onshore Oil and Gas, said: “Oil and gas has been extracted in the UK for over 150 years, with over 2,000 wells drilled and 200 of these hydraulically fractured.

“These wells are sited in many different areas of the country from areas of outstanding natural beauty, council estates and golf courses with no evidence of house price impacts.”