Updated: National Trust defends opposition to INEOS seismic surveys as company begins legal action


Clumber Park, bought by the National Trust in 1946. Photo: (c) Copyright Carl Hinde. Licensed for re-use:

Updated 7/12/2017

The National Trust has denied it acted unreasonably in refusing to allow the shale gas company,  INEOS, to carry out geological tests on historic parkland. 

INEOS announced it was seeking a court order for the right to carry out seismic surveys at the Trust’s Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire. In a statement, the company accused the National Trust of adopting an “overly and and overtly” political position on fracking.

171206 National Trust letter to Times

National Trust letter to The Times, 6 December 2017

But in a letter to The Times (6/12/2017), the National Trust said this was untrue. It said it had acted reasonably by refusing to grant access to INEOS.

The Trust said INEOS had failed to demonstrate why surveys were necessary at Clumber Park.

INEOS said it had submitted an application to the Oil and Gas Authority, which if granted would allow it to seek a court order under the Mines (Working Facilities & Support) Act 1966.

If INEOS went to court, it would have to prove that the National Trust had behaved unreasonably and that the surveys were in the national interest.

INEOS has been carrying out seismic surveying across its East Midlands exploration licences since early June.

In July, DrillOrDrop reported that INEOS had sent the National Trust a pre-action legal letter.

The company said the National Trust had refused all offers of meetings and INEOS had no option but to apply to the Oil and Gas Authority. The company said in a statement:

“INEOS believes the Trust has behaved unreasonably, it is firmly in the national interest and that a court would back its position.”

The Chief Executive Officer of INEOS Shale, Ron Coyle, said:

“The National Trust’s position is overly and overtly political and throughout this process they have refused to engage with us or the science.”

“At INEOS we are developing a shale gas industry that is safe and essential for the UK and the economy. It is estimated that the industry will create tens of thousands of well-paid jobs and INEOS has pledged to give 6% of revenue to local people – potentially amounting to billions of pounds. The Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering have stated that shale gas extraction is safe if properly regulated.”


Clumber Park has the longest double avenue of lime trees in Europe. Photo: (c) Copyright Duncan Grey and licensed for reuse under

“National Trust acted reasonably”

Mark Harold, the Director of Land and Nature at the National Trust, said in the letter:

“INEOS’s suggestion that the National Trust has adopted an “overly and overtly political” position on fracking is untrue.

“The trust is satisfied that it is acting reasonably as a conservation charity by refusing to grant access to INEOS at Clumber Park.

“Our founding principle is to protect the beautiful places in our care. We also believe that climate change is the greatest threat facing our places, and burning fossil fuels is a major contributing factor”.

Clumber Park is a Grade I listed park, most of which is a Site of Scientific Interest. Mr Harold said it was visited by more than 500,000 people a year. He added:

“INEOS has failed to demonstrate to the trust why it is necessary to carry out any surveys here.

“We have no wish for our land to play any part in extracting gas or oil. We are already seeing the impact of climate change at many of our places and we have launched a programme to dramatically cut our own fossil fuel usage at our properties”.

INEOS survey commitments

Under the terms of its East Midlands licences, INEOS must by 2021 carry out a total of 550km of 2D surveys and 575km2 of 3D surveys. It must also drill 11 vertical wells and four horizontal wells which must be fracked.

In the licence area which includes Clumber Park (Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence 308), INEOS must acquire 100km of 2D seismic survey and 100km2 of 3D seismic data, as well as drilling a 4,000m vertical well and fracking a horizontal one.

Seismic surveys investigate the geology of an area and help companies to decide the best sites for exploration wells. INEOS has agreed to share the results of its surveys with the national archives. It said:

“Hundreds of other landowners have already agreed to the surveys.”

A company spokesperson confirmed that the National Trust would not receive its share of the company’s offer to landowners of 6% of revenues from any future shale gas production. The spokesperson said:

“The 6% landowner/homeowner/Community contribution is a voluntary payment by INEOS to landowners, and if landowners do not grant access for surveys at this stage, they are effectively ruling themselves out of receiving in the success case, what would have been their share of the revenue share payment.”

INEOS is beginning to contact owners in Yorkshire for access to their land for seismic surveys.

Mines (Working Facilities & Support) Act 1966

Court action is rare under the Mines (Working Facilities & Support) Act 1966.

A Freedom of Information Act request by DrillOrDrop revealed that in the past 10 years, there has been only one application to acquire what are known as ancillary rights for seismic surveying. But this was withdrawn and the then Energy Secretary did not refer that application to the court for determination.

Updated on 4/12/2017 with statement from INEOS spokesperson on qualification for 6% of revenue and on 7/12/2017 with National Trust letter to The Times

50 replies »

  1. A sesismic survey is not fracking, simply an effort to understand the scale of the resources – which belong to the nation. This irony seems to escape the National Trust

  2. Nick, these seismic surveys are clearly a precursor to fracking, as INEOS have made clear. So it’s a bit disingenuous to pretend they aren’t. And if these resources belong to the nation, and only 13% of the nation supports fracking, surely the nation – and the National Trust, who as their name states, have been entrusted by the Nation to protect this land – has the right to say that they should stay in the ground.
    More power to the National Trust for standing up to the Ineos bully boys.

    • A little poem from the heart of The National Trust

      National Mistrust

      Now Ineos sends a pre action letter
      To The National Trust its refusal to better
      But the Nation plainly mistrusts
      Those Ineos bullying thrusts
      To test the seismic geology
      Without even a sorry or apology
      Their is invasion a just ploy
      To get access to legally destroy
      Their chosen new victim
      Maybe even an In Junk Sham conviction
      They think will get them to seek plunder
      Even while PR companies scream “thats a blunder!”
      But vast implacable Ineos ego prevails no wonder!
      And to seek fracked gas from deep and far under
      To bring it up through pollution and through poison they chunder
      With insane hatred for reason gozunder
      Their plastics to feed
      For money and greed
      While oceans asunder they poison
      The plastics well known to kill wonder
      Of natural wildlife’s Rich variety
      Of species once numerous society
      Of creatures from which we all sprang
      In deep clean oceans where whales dolphins once sang
      Now in silence polluted corpses hang
      Entrapped in plastic bag traps and pretty tangles
      But only for profit that Ineos wangles
      Whilst the planet further chokes and it dies
      The last of heir lives and their strangled “why?”cries
      That man has for too long lost it’s way
      While only profit and loss sheets rules the day
      This planet in deep pollution suffers
      Whilst only bank balances in offshore tax havens that matters
      But Ineos in secret In Junk Plastic Sham reigns
      And it is protection and protest that Ineos blames
      For daring to care
      For not heeding Ineos corporate stare
      Or listen to their “you need us!” Fear scare
      That we dont need their filthy plastic stuff
      And while to secret courts Ineos huff and they bluff
      “We will blow you all away!”
      Is all that they say
      “We will blow your protest house down”
      Whilst in secret that pennywise clown
      Its predatory hunger still grows
      In the dark and dismal holes it sucks and it blows
      It sucks at the planets life blood oil and gas
      And with the parasite poisons they do not lack
      To high pressure hydraulic shake and to frack
      But we will fight the frack to send them back
      And no access to National Trust land hack
      For seismic testing trucks banned
      On National Trust land we demand
      Not ever will they frack there on land
      No matter how hard they try to get
      That will be never and always be my bet
      They can try as they might,
      We will continue to fight,
      They will never ever frack the NT
      No fret!

  3. Sorry Ellie, factually incorrect. Seismic testing will identify whether fracking is more appropriate in one area than another, so it could just as easily rule Clumber Park OUT from fracking as rule it in. And to compound your error, they do not have that right, which Ruth’s text clearly suggests.

    Bit silly of them not to at least enter into an initial discussion, as it will make the reaction by Ineos be seen as the choice of last resort. Not a strong position to put yourself into, and could be expensive with members fees wasted. Their recent poor PR could do without that.

    Have you visited Clumber Park? I have. Not quite the utopia that the selected photos show, surrounded by recent mine workings, and centres of declining communities, where many would find it difficult to afford NT membership fees.

    • Ellie gold. Q. Exactly how do you arrive at 13% neither I nor anyone I know of has been asked if we are in favor or not. which suggests that figure is more hot air than fact.

    • Martin. For the avoidance of doubt:

      “The Trust is opposed to fracking on its land and will reject any fracking requests or inquiries.’

      That means there is no point doing seismic surveys because they will not give permission to frack on their land.

      This is not unreasonable. This is common sense.

      Do you understand now?

      • The National Trust are right to ignore Ineos and let it go to court.

        There is no evidence that shale gas is in the national interest.

        We have no fossil fuel energy security concerns

        The Gas Security Supply Strategic Assessment (12 October 2017), commissioned by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, did not include any contribution from shale gas in its predictions about future UK gas supply.

        “We are secure now, and the GB gas system is well placed to continue to be secure and robust in a range of supply and demand outcomes over the next two decades.”

        • Of course we can have gas securedly imported from overseas. But at what price and cost to the national trades and debt balance. I am sure someone will sell us gas if we are willing to pay through our nose for the price they demands. It is not as if the Qatari and Ruskie will say “no” to selling gas to us for the price they demand from us. So your point is a bit contentious.

          • TW,
            So you think the shale gas profits if they exist will end up in the UK? No
            You think the gas if it exists, will be used solely for the UK. No
            You think the UK will stop importing? No; we have trade deals.

            And a point to consider.
            If the UK is a net importer of food, why are we not turning over every acre to produce home grown produce? Makes more sense that covering it with gas pads when we have plenty offshore.

            Why are you not addressing the real issue? If we stop wasting fuel and move over to clean energy generation, the ethical problem is minimized; I cannot promise you it will go away as certain individuals in the world will still want to exploit others for greed.

            Are you willing to change to make the world a better place?

            • Why do you assume that you and the anti frackers are the only ones that are capable of making the world a better place? And why are you exerting that relying on north sea and oversea imports is the only way of making the world a better place?

            • ‘Why do you assume that you and the anti frackers are the only ones that are capable of making the world a better place? ‘ Not at all TW, we need everybody on board; we must ALL do what we can, small steps complete a long journey.

  4. Well done National Trust. It’s a sad day when big business thinks it can buy the law of this land. When I bought my house there were stipulations in the deeds that give right of access to gas, electric and water companies to service and otherwise carry out necessary work to existing supply routes eg underground pipes. There was no right stipulated in the deeds to give anyone the right to drill a deep hole in my garden, carry out seismic testing in it, or frack in it! So why should national trust allow it on their land??!!

    • You don’t own the ground under your house down to the centre of the earth, so if someone decides to drill under it, or mine, a few kms below the surface, you’ll have a lot of difficulty in stopping them.

      • This is not technically true Al.
        Particular note should be made of presumption of ownership and the Crown Estate under the heading Minerals in State Ownership. Look up manorial rights.

        Also under the heading Oil and Gas
        ‘The rights granted by landward licences do not include any rights of access, and the licensees must also obtain any consent under current legislation, including planning permissions.’. note ‘do not include any rights of access’, therefore permission must be sort from the landowner, so this will apply to seismic testing and fracking ON NT land.

    • Kay
      If you lived in a coalfield, the Coal Board could undermine your house, and you had no say in the matter. Ditto The National Trust. They then repaired any damage caused.
      So…’s not all in the deeds.

  5. There is absolutely nothing political about seismic testing.

    The reason why most landowners agree to seismic testing on their land is to make a ‘quick buck’ – yes its because they get paid for it. It’s a carrot and stick approach. The Landowner can simply accept the payment but they are told that if they refuse to allow testing in their land, legal action will be taken to make them comply and they will not receive any payment.

    I have just looked up the word ‘bully’ in the dictionary: “use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force them to do something”. It may have nothing to do with this article but if the cap fits………

    By all accounts The NT did not wish to take any payments or risk any damage to their estate. Nowt wrong with that. They are entitled to their opinion.

    Seismic testing can be very invasive involving huge Thumper Trucks and or detonating explosives below the surface. If someone has information about quiet, non-invasive seismic testing, please share it with us. This is a park, open to the public. A place of peace and quite, were animals and people feel safe. Most NT Members really do care abut our environment.

    As Martin kindly pointed out the park is “surrounded by recent mine workings”. All of which could be disturbed through seismic testing. The Coal Board Authority have to examine hundreds of sinkholes in the UK and carry out very expensive repairs to make these old mining collapses safe.

    If any damage occurs during seismic testing, the default position is usually “the damage is nothing to do with us mate”. Which then involves lots of time and money just to receive any due compensation. Some people are still chasing compensation claims from 2011.

    I***S know that they can force this through so I don’t really see what their problem is. They are likely to get their own way (I believe there is a word for that too).

    • Waffle
      The NT has a publicised opinion to oppose fracking, and it is no surprise that they are happy to take the issue to court. I am a member, I disagree with them, but also enjoy meeting the masses, pop concerts and other invasive human activities which go on in the Park. Better we have access than it be a private estate, as it was.

      The good news is that Seismic Surveying is not going to disturb deep mined areas such as Clumber Park, which is welll riddled with mine workings, and affected by subsidence. Indeed, the lack of villages and industry meant that it was cheap to undermine. A lack of villages and industry on the surface allowed by the copious amounts of money made from coal royalties. The rich land owners thought it best to keep the working class at arms length.

      The coal seams are deep in that area, being worked by the ring of collieries such as Manton, Ollerton, Thoresby and Welbeck. Seismic Surveying will have no affect on existing workings in that area.

      Where there are shallow workings, as in Derbyshire and West Notts, along the outcrops along the Brimington Anticline, for example, drilling is the key issue. Best to miss drilling through an old bell pit or shallow pillar and stall workings. Seismic surveying is not going to cause old mine workings to collapse, it did not in the past and it has not done so during the comprehensive surveying carried out to date by INEOS and prior to that UK Coal, Budge and British Coal. So in my opinion, it is as quiet and non invasive as you can get, while doing it.

    • You seem to be confusing “thumpers trucks”, properly known as weight drop, with vibroseis trucks. Neither do any damage. You ask for evidence of non invasive seismic surveys – have you ever seen any evidence of the seismic line recorded through the centre of Paris and down the Champs Elysees? Closer to home, the trucks which passed metres from my house did zero damage

  6. I understand Sherwulfe. It seems someone else does not understand that Ineos does not require the permission of the NT. Permission is requested for seismic testing, it can be ignored/refused by NT, but they do not have a legal right to maintain that as a reason to prevent it happening.

    It is positive that it does go to court as it is likely to close another loophole in the numerous mechanisms to delay matters.

    First injunctions, then remove councillors kicking cans down the road, now to address this blockage. Busy little bees, aren’t they.

    • So if they do not need permission, why the need for court? You talk in riddles Martin.

      It will be very interesting if it does proceed to court. It will set the bar in so many ways 😉

    • My understanding is that we sell at spot price to get better price but then import for the short fall. It is however the fact that we are currently a net importer of natural gas/oil. 40-50% of our gas consumption is imported.

  7. It is a PROCESS Sherwulfe. The first stage is to seek agreement, if it is not provided, then you go to court, if necessary. Ever looked into neighbour situations with overgrown hedges? Hardly a riddle.

    • But Martin, you said ‘It seems someone else does not understand that Ineos does not require the permission of the NT’; so why must they seek agreement? Still riddle me ree….

  8. I haven’t got time right now go into lots of detail, TW, but as I understand it, the 30% export from the UK to Sept 2017 is a net figure, since production has increased from other (N. Sea) sources & our demand has decreased. So imports have decreased, and exports have increased. Worth noting that our imports are primarily from Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands! according to this rather useful pdf published by HMG!

    Click to access Gas.pdf

    • You are mistaken. Look at chart 4.4. Export for Q2 2017 is roughly 40 Twh compared to 120 Twh. So clearly we are a huge net importer.

    • Ryor
      The Bacton Interconnector can export and import gas. When exporting it may well export molecules of SNS gas to Belgium, our key customer, based on their need for gas, and our ability to provide it. But that ability is based on the large amount we import from Norway. So we can pass that gas through from Norway to Belgium, and get paid for doing so … good business I guess.
      Either way, we are net importers, so we really only net export when we produce more than we use.

      • Am sure this has been passed over before, but there are other factors here. Due to the superior quality, the price of the exported oil is usually more expensive than imported, so net effect is less cost to the consumer. Keep it all and the price to the house or business goes up.

        ‘so we really only net export when we produce more than we use.’ this sentence makes no sense. We can produce more, but have no buyer; we would not become a net exporter in that case.

        If this was the goal, better to fill the gaps with clean energy production and reduction in consumption through insulation and tariff. Then, like Norway, the surplus can be sold. However, this opportunity could have been missed as the world moves at increasing pace towards clean energy and less fossil fuel?

        • Sherwulf
          I take the point for oiL, but mine was about gas.

          There Is a surplus which is exported, primarily it seems to Belgium, through the Bacton interconnector. More in summer than in winter. But we remain net importers throughout the year.

          We may be in this boat for a while yet. The big Trent valley power stations are working hard at present, burning up the large piles of Russian coal ( as I can see when walking the dog ). The word on the street is that, as they have to shut down in 9 years or so, maintaining them is not worth the effort, as you never get your costs back, so they will close early ( after having burned the coal ) and the gap will be filled by gas power.

          • Apologies hewes, I take your point. Can you link to figures please.

            On the gap being filled with gas; we will have to disagree. In 9 years the game will have changed. There has been no shale produced in 8 years, clean energy generation in that time has developed so rapidly that it is now competitive, storage solutions are now viable, so in 9 years and as climate targets kick in I expect the world will be a very different place.

            • Sherwulf
              I was looking at the data in the links from Ryor Groupracers above.
              Re the gas used to replace coal in the short term, I expect it to be imported gas rather than frack gas

  9. How long before INEOS are trying to issue injunctions to prevent public access to NT land? Land that has been left in trust for all to enjoy. The arrogance of this company is breathtaking but will be hugely counterproductive.

    • If they get permission to use NT land, in spite of NT wishes, that is already the case Pauline isn’t it, under the terms of their current injunction against the whole world?

    • There have been numerous seismic surveys conducted over NT land. If the NT can show evidence of any previous damage, I guess that might help their case.

    • Pauline
      Not all of the Park is open to the public. Some is farmland. As I understand INEOS seek to survey on that area not open to the public. No doubt we shall find out in fine detail soon.

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