VANDALS who smashed a 7,000-litre liquid fertiliser tank at Hartley Park Farm have been accused of causing environmental chaos.

The mindless raid at Lavender Fields on the B3006 near Selborne last Friday resulted in the powerful liquid cascading onto the main road.

A padlock on the tank, which is at the end of a narrow, private lane near the farm, had been forced, but it wasn’t until owner Nick Butler noticed cars splashing through the liquid as it spread across the road that he realised what had happened.

“It was around noon and we immediately called the emergency services and the Environment Agency,” he said.

Police closed the Selborne Road, diverting traffic along the A32 which sparked rush-hour tailbacks with the police forced to patrol the crossroads in Farringdon village to keep vehicles moving.

Fire crews from Alton, Rushmoor, Basingstoke and Winchester worked with Hampshire Environment Agency officers to clear the road of the liquid fertiliser, but not before it had destroyed a thick hedgerow opposite the farm.

“We don’t know what wildlife has been destroyed,” said Mr Butler on Monday, “as birds are still nesting and there were wild flowers and grasses in the hedge and along the roadside.”

Mr Butler continued: “We have no idea who would do such a thoughtless act and it has come at our busiest time as our lavender is just coming into flower. Fortunately, the fertiliser isn’t a health hazard. The fire officers did an air check and it was clean.

“Sadly, though, the fertiliser has found its way into a small stream which runs along our land and I think leads into the River Wey. It has fish in it and the environmental officers are still here today pumping out the water to clean it up.”

Mr Butler added: “We haven’t been able to assess the damage yet but it is still business as usual.”

Environmental officer Peter O’Connor confirmed it was the Caker stream that had been affected and the concern was the effect on the fish and invertebrates, such as frogs, snails and water boatmen, which live in it.

“We are aware of the incident at Selborne and we are continuing to assess what is happening with the effect on the environment.”

Anyone with information about the Hartley Park Farm vandalism should call the Environment Agency’s 24-hour emergency freephone hotline on 0800 807060.