Fracking in Derbyshire: a tale of two exhibitions


Opponents of fracking in Marsh Lane rally outside an INEOS exhibition

The two sides of the fracking debate made their case in a small village in north Derbyshire this afternoon.

INEOS Shale, which wants to drill an exploration well on farmland in Marsh Lane, near Eckington, put on an exhibition in the Green Lawns Community Centre.

Opponents of the plans from local anti-fracking and climate change campaign groups hosted an alternative event at the Marsh Lane Community Association hall a few minutes’ walk away.

As you would expect, INEOS had high-quality corporate display material and a team of professionals to answer questions about the shale gas process and its plans.

But the campaign groups had the final word of the day. In the dark and the drizzle, more than 100 people, mainly families with children, stopped the traffic on Marsh Lane’s main street as they marched to the INEOS exhibition. They said they wanted to give the company a clear message: “We don’t want fracking in Derbyshire.”


At the end of the evening, INEOS staff and executives had to walk through a crowd of protesters.

Tom Pickering, Operations Director of INEOS Shale, said afterwards:

“We will continue to hold these events to explain our proposals and answer residents’ questions despite the efforts of a highly vocal minority who want to limit this interaction. It speaks volumes about the confidence that this extreme fringe has in their arguments that they want all discussion shut down. INEOS will not let this happen.”

For INEOS, the meeting was new territory. It had held a series of meetings last year with local councillors across the East Midlands, Cheshire and north Yorkshire. But this was the first time staff and consultants had come face-to-face with members of the public in a place where it wants to drill.


Visitors to the INEOS exhibition

As well as Tom Pickering, the company brought out Gary Haywood, chief executive of INEOS Shale.

The alternative exhibition fielded the former Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett. The opposition campaign in Marsh Lane burst into life in January when INEOS announced it had begun the planning application process for a field off Bramleymoor Lane.

Alan Finney, one of the organisers of the alternative exhibition (pictured below), was born in nearby Eckington. He said:

“When INEOS decided on here I thought it was important to do our own exhibition.”

The messages: INEOS

INEOS holds 10 exploration licences across this part of the East Midlands. One representative said the company was 95% sure the Marsh Lane well would confirm there was shale gas in play.


Chief Executive, Gary Haywood, said:

“People have heard a lot about this industry. Some of the things they hear are alarming. The reason to do today’s event is to give people the facts. People can speculate about what we are going to do. Or they can come to the exhibition and hear about what we are planning to do.”

The company stressed that its proposed well would be drilled vertically to extract a core sample of rock to identify the geological characteristics and gas-producing potential. The current application would not include fracking or flow testing, the company said.

Derbyshire County Council is expected to announce in mid-February whether the planning application for the well needs an environmental impact assessment (EIA). If the answer is no, a planning consultant for INEOS said the application could be submitted by the end of the month. If an EIA is required, this could add a couple of months to the process.

The message: the opponents

Alternative exhibition organiser, Alan Finney, said:

“Generally, people are against fracking in this area. They are coming here to find out what fracking is about.”


Anti-fracking cakes at the alternative exhibition

Some opponents said they did not trust INEOS not to frack the well in future. (And an INEOS representative conceded this was a possibility, depending on the results from other exploration in the area.)

One campaigner, Julie Graham, said:

“I cannot see why a company that has never drilled before is going to spend all that money [on a well] and then leave it. We will not know if they are drilling laterally. It is self-regulation.

“In these pretty little villages it [fracking] does not fit well. These people want to live quietly. Why should their peace be disturbed?”


Former Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett (pictured above with Green Party councillor Alison Teal), said INEOS would not have answers to three key issues:

“We have to move away from fossil fuels

“Shale gas is a huge distraction to government policy which should be focussed on renewables and storage

“There will be environmental impacts from large lorry movements and water use.”

Public mood

One person at the INEOS exhibition shouted at Gary Haywood: “I don’t want fracking in this area. That’s all I’ve got to say”.

One said “I am disgusted about it”. Another described drilling for shale gas as “scary stuff” and another asked “Why have we got to have it”?

Organisers of both exhibitions agreed that most visitors opposed INEOS plans but they expressed them politely. Gary Haywoord said:

“When to comes down to ‘here is the site’ it focusses people’s attention. It is not surprising to get some reaction.”


The alternative exhibition, with its homemade cake stall felt more like a WI meeting than a campaign event. Yet bizarrely at one point the hall had four members of the local policing team and two other police officers. Asked why they were there, one officer said they were moving between the two events.


Organisers of both exhibitions said they were pleased with the turnout and the opportunity to talk to people.

The INEOS exhibition look more crowded but the room was smaller and the company had brought about 20 members of staff and consultants. INEOS said more than 300 people visited its exhibition and they were “overwhelmingly receptive to two-way engagement on shale extraction”.

Tom Pickering said:

“We are grateful that so many local people took the time to come and find out the facts for themselves about our plans.  On the night, we heard numerous false claims that had been presented as fact to the local people, and we were pleased that we had the opportunity to correct these misrepresentations.  We believe that the more people learn about this technology the more accepting they will be of it.”

At the alternative exhibition, one of the organisers said there had been 150 people through by 3.15pm.

James Eaden, of Chesterfield Climate Alliance, described the numbers at the march as “fantastic”.

“I think this community is saying no thanks, we don’t want you. This is about ordinary people standing up and saying enough is enough.”

Updated 1/2/2017 to correct Nottinghamshire County Council to Derbyshire County Council. Updated 2/2/2017 to include new quotes from INEOS Shale and video of staff leaving the exhibition

This report is part of DrillOrDrop’s Rig Watch project. Rig Watch receives funding from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. More details here

11 replies »

  1. And the prize for understatement of 2017 so far goes to …. Gary Haywood for

    “When to comes down to ‘here is the site’ it focusses people’s attention. It is not surprising to get some reaction.”

  2. There is an interesting juxtaposition of the style of presentation between Ineos and the local protest meeting. What strikes me most of all is that the official professional Ineos business presentation approach in this first time of meeting the local residents who would bear the brunt of the Oil and Gas proposals in their vicinity, was a little heavy handed with 20+ representatives. The slick displays and models to show what their intentions are would have been interesting to see, i hope it was better than the Disneyland style simplified version in the supplement last week.
    The protest meeting however it seems was much more of a community event and the home made cakes and two representatives from the Green Party seemed more appropriate for the meeting of local people voicing their concerns and opposition to the Ineos proposals.
    The approach by the police was telling however, i would very much like to know if the same degree of police presence was evident at the Ineos meeting? Though i can understand that the cakes were also an attraction at the protest meeting….
    I feel that Ineos perhaps misunderstood the appropriate method to approach local people on a one to one basis, and all though it was admirable that the big names appeared, the fact that there were 20+ representatives to back them up, that could be construed as being intimidating. It would be interesting to know what the questions were and what was answered?
    Could anyone provide that who attended?
    However i welcome the effort on Ineos behalf and trust that this one meeting will not be the only one and once people have a chance to absorb the implications of the material displayed, that the local residents get more opportunities to voice their concerns face to face with Ineos? Maybe you could provide home made cakes next time Ineos?

    • INEOS were heavy handed, their two ‘heavies’ jostled people and tried to prevent people who had visible anti fracking literature from entering.
      An allegation of assault by one of them on a resident has been made to the police.

      • Thanks for that Spike, where were the police when that happened? If that was Ineos attitude, then that negated the very purpose of the meeting, since it is the protesters that are the ones to convince (or not) most of all.
        Any comments from Ineos on that?

  3. Gordon Grant from INEOS thinks the loss in property values will be down to the Anti fracking signs in the village, NOT the fracking itself. FFS !

    • Apparently Gordon Geck…..sorry Grant is one of those post truthers who believe anything goes, tell a lie often enough and it becomes a truth. It doesn’t of course but this “reframing” of the truth is standard NzLP training. How do I know that? I attended a couple of courses in the days when such practices were seen to be a good business tool. It is only useful now in that I can spot an NLP phraseology and reframing a mile off and I see it everywhere, from local to central government, private industry and multinational blurbs. Lies are the new truths in this day and age.

  4. There can be little doubt that Inoes intend to frack here. As one villager said, they will not construct a pad and drill a well and not carry out a frack. It costs millions to drill a well to the shale. After the vast PR spread in local newspapers,only informing the locals relatively late in the day, they are applying tactics that they believe will provide them with the path of least resistance. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing and where money and this industry is concerned, cannot be trusted.

  5. Interesting to read that Ineos said that the application did not include Fracking when their representative told me the drilling takes up to 90 days and the Fracking would take 2 weeks !
    I quickly reminded him that the apllication was just for drilling and not Fracking
    He suddenly shut up – it was clear that I had caught him out.

  6. If fracking is as wonderful as proclaimed by those wishing to inflict the process on a Community, why has it been banned or stopped in so many regions worldwide?
    Please do your research and discover the truth!

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