Opponents of fracking have vowed to defend Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire after it was revealed that the chemical company, INEOS, is preparing to explore for shale gas.
According to a Freedom of Information request by Friends of the Earth, INEOS has been negotiating since last summer with the Forestry Commission for access to land for seismic surveying and a possible wellsite.
Maps released under the request show surveys would be carried out across the Sherwood Forest national nature reserve, on Forestry Commission land and the Welbeck estate.
They suggest that if the surveys went ahead, the edge of one block would be within 500m of the legendary Major Oak, an 800-year-old tree slept in by Robin Hood and his merry men and women.
Friends of the Earth has begun a petition calling on the environment secretary, Andrea Leadsom, to prevent fracking on publicly-owned forests.
It has also organised a public meeting at the visitor centre in Sherwood Forest for Saturday (7 January) Details.
Friends of the Earth campaigner, Guy Shrubsole, said:
“Is nothing sacred? By hunting for shale gas in Sherwood Forest … chemicals giant INEOS is sticking two fingers up at England’s green heritage, all in the pursuit of profit.
“INEOS seems to have taken a different message than the rest of us from Robin Hood.
“INEOS should back off and drop their quest for fracking. The public wants to protect their English countryside and prefers renewable energy, not dirty shale gas, which will only add to climate change.”
North Nottinghamshire has already seen one approval for shale gas exploration – the IGas site at Mission. Another IGas application, for Tinker Lane, near Blyth, is due to be decided this month by Nottinghamshire County Council.
Seismic survey agreement
INEOS was the most successful company in last year’s oil and gas licensing round. It was granted 21 licences and has exclusive rights to explore for oil and gas across one million acres in the UK.
The FOI request shows that INEOS’s land agent, FGP, has been corresponding with the Forestry Commission over access agreements since the beginning of August 2016.
The two sides signed an agreement, which began on 2 November 2016, for seismic testing. It is limited for a total period of up to six months at any one time.
Under the agreement, INEOS indemnifies the Forestry Commission against all claims and is required to maintain insurance of not less than £5m for any one claim.
The company is also required to indemnify Forestry Commission against any damage costs or losses caused by any protest against the proposal.
The maps also show that the National Trust’s Clumber Park is not included in the seismic survey areas. Tom Pickering, operations director of INEOS Upstream, told today’s Sunday Telegraph
“We did approach National Trust to conduct a seismic survey (no drilling or fracking) over its land, but sadly, they said no.
“We think this decision is regrettable as the new data that we would have gathered, would eventually become part of the UK geologic database.”
INEOS has also been negotiating over a potential shale gas site at Thieves Wood, close to Ravenshead on land rented to the Forestry Commission by the Wellbeck Estate.
In return for leasing the site, the Forestry Commission would be paid:
- A base rent for the land
- Costs incurred in negotiating the agreement
- 1% of gross revenue from the sale of any oil or gas extracted from the production
- 2% of gross revenue from sale of oil or gas extracted from under the land
- Extra rent from land required for use including temporary site accommodation
According to the correspondence, the Forestry Commission proposed an alternative to INEOS’s first choice for the well. The commission said of the alternative:
“There would be a lot less impact on public recreation routes and therefore less push back from the public. We also have a lot of anti-social behaviour in that area and your proposed use would move that on, which again could be a positive for you.”
Tom Pickering told the Telegraph:
“Any decision to position a well site will take into account environmental features such as the Major Oak and the planning process would also consider those issues.”
“When we do drill a vertical ‘coring’ well in the area, there are many general and specific environmental protections in place and we will of course abide by them.”
The correspondence also suggested the Forestry Commission was aware that Fisher German, a company connected to FGP, was working for local landowners. DrillOrDrop has reported that Fisher German has been acting in negotiation over seismic survey access, on the opposite side of the table to FGP, with whom it shares a director. The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors is investigating a complaint of conflict of interest against the companies.
This is the second recent criticism of the Forestry Commission for leasing sites to the onshore oil and gas industry. Europa Oil and Gas is preparing to drill an oil exploration well on forestry land at Bury Hill Wood (Holmwood) in the Surrey Hills. Before Christmas two district councillors wrote to Mrs Leadsom urging her to revoke the lease with the Forestry Commission Details.
- Saturday 7 January 2017: Protect Sherwood Forest from fracking, meeting hosted by Friends of the Earth, includes short walk in the forest, gathering with speakers at the Major Oak and tea in the café at the visitor centre, 1pm-3pm, Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre, Swinecote Road, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire NG21 9HN. Details