The chemical company, INEOS, is facing months of delays over access to council-owned land to carry out surveys for shale gas.
The company has approached Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire County Councils for permission to do seismic testing on their land. But so far neither council has agreed to give access.
The National Trust has said it will not allow INEOS to have access to its land at Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire and up to 14 parish councils in the region are also reported to have refused.
According to correspondence released under a Freedom of Information request, INEOS’s agent, FGP, contacted Nottinghamshire County Council in December 2016. The agent offered a bonus payment if the council gave permission before 27 January 2017.
But officials told INEOS the issue had to be decided by the council’s Finance and Property Committee.
A spokesperson for Nottinghamshire County Council confirmed that the next meeting of the committee, scheduled for 24 April, has been cancelled. The next date when the issue could be discussed is likely to be 19 June, after the county council elections.
The spokesperson said INEOS wanted to carry out surveys at seven sites, six owned by the council and one leased:
- Park at the Former Shireoaks Colliery
- The Former Manton Pit Colliery
- Land to the north of Manton Pitt Colliery
- Park in Worksop to the North of Manton Pit Colliery
- Shirebrook Wood and Shirebrook Miners Welfare Angling Club
- Land at Warsop Vale Colliery (leased by the council from Fitzherbert Estates)
- Land at Gorsethorpe Meadow
Adrian Smith, a Corporate Director at Nottinghamshire County Council, said:
“Agents acting on behalf of INEOS Upstream have contacted the County Council with regard to accessing a number of Council-owned sites to carry out seismic testing.
“Given the sensitivity of this issue we will be referring the matter in a report to elected members for consideration which will allow any decision to be taken democratically and transparently.
“The report will acknowledge that if the County Council does not provide consent, it is possible that INEOS may use legal powers contained within the Geological Survey Act 1845 to challenge any refusal in the courts.”
In Derbyshire, the county council confirmed that it had also been approached by INEOS but that it had not agreed to access either. A spokesperson said:
“We have some queries such as relating to how the surveys are to be carried out and need more info before we can consider the request.”
An investigation by Spinwatch found that parish councils had refused permission for surveying at Whitwell, Langwith, Killamarsh, Hodthorpe and Belph and Harthill with Woodall. Research by Friends of the Earth now puts the number at 14 parishes.
Asked by DrillOrDrop what impact the access problems would have on the seismic survey, an INEOS spokesperson said:
“It will not delay the survey.”
Marsh Lane: “We understand concerns”
INEOS has said it expects to submit an application in May for a vertical shale gas well at Bramleymoor Lane, at the village of Marsh Lane, north Derbyshire.
Lynn Calder, the company’s commercial director, said she hoped the council would decide the application within 13 weeks.
During a public meeting in Marsh Lane, she told Peak FM:
“We completely understand the concerns of local residents. We haven’t been at all thinking that this is something that is not going to be disruptive to their lives. We understand that it is.
“But this planning application and this public consultation today is for a very, very simple vertical cored well. There’s no fracking, there’s nothing that’s out of the ordinary compared to many of the wells that have been drilled onshore and offshore in the UK for decades.
“And so we would like to say that we don’t think there’s anything to worry about with this well at all. We understand the disruption but we’re here today to listen to your concerns and mitigate them where we can.”
Derbyshire County Council decided that the application did not need an Environmental Impact Assessment. Ms Calder said:
“People are starting to understand that us not having to had to do an environmental impact assessment is not that we have done nothing in terms of assessing the environmental impact. So we spent quite a lot of time doing ecology surveys, environmental surveys, landscape surveys, mineworking surveys, visual impact surveys, noise surveys, traffic surveys.
“We’ve done a lot of work on that and whilst I think people understand that those are INEOS-sponsored surveys they also understand that statutory consultees to the planning application process will assess the results of those surveys and will have a view on whether they’re credible and whether they’re good enough to get a planning approval and I think that people are really starting to understand the level of work that’s going into this planning process.”
Marsh Lane: “It’s going to be total mayhem”
Lisa Shires, who lives 300 metres from the proposed site, said she believed the site would be “an absolute nightmare” and “total mayhem”.
Asked by Peak FM why she thought this, she said:
“Because they don’t know what they’re doing. They’ve got all the gear and they’ve got no idea.
“They’ve never done it before and Cuadrilla, who have done it before, who are supposed to be ahead of the game, have already caused an earthquake so why do they think they can do it any better?”
Ms Shires said people were already having difficulty selling their houses and prices had come down. Asked whether she would live in Marsh Lane if drilling went ahead, she said:
“I would still be living here. Where else can I go? You can’t sell your house for what it’s worth. Already people don’t want to know. I am so frightened for my children really because they are the ones who are going to have to put up with this in future.”
She described how people had reacted in Marsh Lane to the application:
“Marsh Lane has just been brilliant. Everyone has come together and we’re all going to fight it. And it’s not going to happen. We’re not going to let it.”
Asked what her message would be to the county council, she said:
“You need to grow some and tell them to go home, back to Scotland.”
INEOS has identified another potential shale gas site at Common Road, near Harthill, in Rotherham Metropolitan borough. It has asked the council to decide whether it needs to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment.