Yorkshire landowners back National Trust in INEOS legal challenge


Letter in today’s Times newspaper

15 Yorkshire landowners, holding more than 80,000 acres, have publicly supported the National Trust in the legal challenge from INEOS over access for shale gas testing.

They include Nick Howard, of Castle Howard, Sir William Worsley of Hovingham Hall, Sir Richard Storey, of Settrington House and the television presenter, Selina Scott.

The landowners wrote to today’s Times saying:

“We are united in our support for the National Trust in its resistance to a legal challenge by INEOS to access its land for the purposes of gas exploration.”

Yesterday, the shale gas company announced it had received permission to take its case against the Trust to the High Court.

INEOS wants to carry out seismic testing in the Trust’s Grade 1 listed historic Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire. The process is used to understand the geology of shale rocks and identify the best place to drill or frack wells.

The National Trust has refused access to the park. It said INEOS had not followed the proper planning process and had failed to demonstrate why the surveys were necessary at Clumber Park. The National Trust added:

“We have no wish for our land to play any part in extracting gas or oil. We are already seeing the impacts 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.”

“Habeas terra”

In today’s letter, the landowners said they took seriously the management of their land.

They said INEOS’s case, which would allow it to do something on land it did not own, “had resonance with an earlier legal process that established the right of habeas corpus”. They said:

“As landowners, perhaps we are claiming the right of habeas terra – the right to control what happens on our land.”

INEOS has been carrying out seismic testing in the East Midlands since last summer. It is expected to begin tests in its Yorkshire exploration licences later this year.

Yesterday the company said the Oil and Gas Authority, in granting permission for the case to go to court, had noted the UK Government’s support for a shale industry and that the surveys were required to explore for resources in the licensed area.

Today, the landowners compared the consumption of hydrocarbons to that of sugary drinks:

“The ambition should be to reduce the consumption of a product that is not without harm to the planet.”

They added:

“In our view the extraction of shale gas does not produce “infrastructure”, rather it is a speculative process by highly leveraged companies to extend the use of hydrocarbons. There is no shortage of gas on the world market.”

“Fracking requires local communities to pay a high price both socially and environmentally. We have no wish to be party to an unwanted development or inappropriate use of land that we own.”


DrillOrDrop invited INEOS to comment on the letter. A company spokesperson said:

The National Trust’s position is very disappointing as we have had positive relationships with a range of stakeholders and landowners during surveys. The National Trust wouldn’t even have discussions with us in this case owing to a political objection to shale gas.

The key message here is that if shale gas proves to be successful in the UK it will become a vital piece of the nation’s infrastructure, and will provide the UK with highly competitive energy, meaning we will be less dependent on foreign supplies. It will also generate enormous levels of investment and jobs in the North of England where they are desperately needed, and will also help the UK to meet its climate change commitments.

Manufacturing jobs are not created without investment and there is precious little investment in the North of England in manufacturing.  Recent figures on jobs and investment estimate that the shale industry is expected to bring in £33 billion of investment into England alone over the next two decades

The resources beneath our feet can be used to create jobs, heat our homes, go a long way towards self-sufficiency and improve our balance of payments and the environment all at the same time.

Updated 24 February 2018 with quote from INEOS spokesperson


33 replies »

  1. and here you have it, wealthy landowners, refusing to help the nation in securing sustainable energy a clear case of were alright sod everyone else.

    • I think our definitions of “Sustainable” may be slightly different. For energy to be sustainable the following three factors need to be addressed:- environmental, economic and social. I would say it Shale fails on at least one of those factors, others will say all three.

    • Gas man just noticed your statement can be applied to the unconventional on shore gas industry nearly word for word with only a few minor alterations “and here you have it, wealthy O&G industry types, refusing to help the nation in securing sustainable energy, a clear case of we’re alright sod everyone in our way”

    • As far as I’m concerned they are helping the nation by opposing this dreadful fracking industry. They could stand to make money from leasing their land after all they have considerable acreagage but instead are doing the noble thing of preserving the countryside and exercising their choice. Well done to these landowners that have put conservation, farming and free choice before profit.

      • But some of these owners have aleady accepted seismic surveys (and cash) over their land. And now they want others not to allow seismic surveys?

  2. Castle Howard has a number of seismic lines across their estate. There’s also two wells adjacent to their property. (Who is the land owned by?) Sounds like “do as I say and not as I do”

  3. I thought we were quite a few centuries beyond where the land Barons could dictate to the Courts of the Land. Nationalise!

    Then the two thirds of the “peasants” who are not against fracking will get a look in. (But I suspect the Courts will do the job for them, and then these landowners will end up being able to-“reluctantly”- negotiate an enlarged fee from INEOS, in compensation.)

    • I think trying to play the rich land owner versus the people card is rather shabby. Lots of people own land but the point here is whether you have a lot of land or a small amount, INEOS has made it quite clear they are willing to bully their way onto land against the owners wishes. Most people do not support action of this kind, it is one thing if a land owner chooses to have fracking on their land and quite another if they are forced. INEOS has stated they would even place pads on land against the owners wishes. I am delighted that these landowners have voiced their objections. And if you want to suggest all land should be owned by the state, I think you should consider moving to some communist state. And will you be the first in the queue to donate whatever land you own to the government?

      • And also the two thirds you refer to are not pro fracking (they are undecided) but I suspect if INEOS or any other fracking company wants to force their way onto their land against their wishes, the majority would soon quickly become opposed to fracking!

  4. Yet more wealthy individuals attempting to prevent development. The list of titles makes quite a read. I think this will have a detrimental effect on the anti campaign if anything.

    • really? I think this will be seen as being inclusive, people of all walks of life objecting to this industry insidious methods of inserting itself into communities. Oh and the additional lobbying power in both Houses that the landed gentry have access to will only benefit the anti case.

      • It would appear these influential landowners did their own research, as they probably don’t turn down easy income lightly. I rather suspect there may have been some Conservative Party donors among this list. No doubt their support will be withdrawn in the current climate.

    • You’re complaining about wealthy individuals trying to stop other wealthy individuals from forcing their way onto land they don’t own with the aim of making themselves even more wealthy?

  5. I think it was the land owners who declared how much land they owned/controlled KatT, not me. Neither did I say they were rich. Equally, the situation they refer to is NOT about fracking on the land managed by the NT, but about conducting seismic tests. And then, according to the BEIS it is factually correct that around two thirds of those questioned were NOT against fracking, so, if that is their view they do not represent the majority of the “peasants”. But, that has been the case for centuries.
    I will probably not need to move, KatT. Once Nationalisation starts it knows no limits, as more and more is needed to try and pay off the losses made on the initial targets. If you Giggle enough you will find a very funny story about Churchill’s comments on the subject, made within the Houses of Parliament WC.

    • Martyn I’m afraid you are splitting hairs. It is quite clear these land owners want nothing to do with fracking full stop, which is exactly the same as the National Trust (as confirmed in the NT’s statement) and understandably they object to having their control and choice taken away. Your comments regarding the BEIS statistics do not make sense, the just under half that are undecided about fracking, means exactly that, they are undecided. You cannot lump them with either the for or against. Furthermore the BEIS stats are from a survey, which at best may be representative.
      I disagree completely regarding nationalisation and land ownership. Whilst much of our land law has been founded upon the feudal system, with registered titles and a raft of rights and interests not to mention statutory compensation Acts, there is not the slightest possibility that any government will nationalise all privately owned land.
      INEOS do themselves no favours by using these bullying tactics. Previous access rights for oil and gas have been negotiated amicably between landowner and company. As far as I am aware there has not been a case tried in the English courts where the industry has used powers to gain access to land against the land owners wishes, certainly not in respect of a well site. This industry cannot afford to make even more enemies but that is exactly what INEOS is doing.

    • Only conducting seismic tests? Are you quite sure? It would be interesting to read the contract that I have no doubt INEOS will insist the landowner signs before paying them for access for seismic testing. One can but wonder whether there is anything tucked away in the small print, in mind-boggling legalese, about that payment also requiring access for exploratory drilling and even future production on that particular piece of land. I expect we’ll never know unless someone wants to share their contract. These landowners will understand that any such ongoing activity would leave them with abandoned wells at some time in the future…. along with the liabilities and responsibilities for any leaks or other well failures.

  6. Why are the Courts “bullies”? The Courts of this land are open to every individual to act AGAINST bullies, amongst others.

    It really is giving up a bit early to play the bully card, even before the Court has ruled. However, I suspect some antis know what is likely to be the outcome and are keen to deflect ahead of that.

  7. KatT-from what I understand, NT refused to enter into dialogue with INEOS, so how could the matter be resolved by something they refused to enter into?? Please read Ruth’s text, INEOS have made it perfectly clear this is not about a well site on NT controlled land.

    Equally, you do seem to have a problem with maths. The BEIS survey shows quite clearly that for a legally authorised activity (fracking for UK gas) two thirds questioned were not against that being allowed to continue. To change what has already been authorised, you need more than a third against to gain traction. I agree the BEIS survey may not be representative, but that’s the best we have at the moment. It may not be wise to continue down that road. UK populations are averse to a minority trying to enforce their views upon those who are undecided, and are more inclined to react against that, than join them. They see it as bullying.

    • Martyn please be assured I understand maths perfectly well. If anything, I may have simply misunderstood the point you were making. But you are still splitting hairs and cherry picking. The NT has made their position on fracking abundantly clear many times and as such there was no negotiation to be had. INEOS knew the answer would be no. And it is clear from the previous statements issued by the NT and the one issued as a result of INEOS’ decision to proceed to court, the NT is against anything associated with fracking, so that clearly will include seismic testing. I note you make no mention, also reported in Drill or Drop, about how INEOS was reprimanded by the BGS for allowing their agents to falsely claim the seismic surveys were a part of a national study headed up by the BGS and therefore landowners could not refuse? Many would also see that as not only misleading but intimidatory and bullying. Your last point demonstrates perfectly why INEOS and the government are indeed bullying landowners and the public. A minority government is forcing fracking on a population that according to the government’s own figures, is a population that has more undecided and opposed to fracking than support it. INEOS is prepared to force access onto land against a landowners wishes and they have also stated that could include well pads. That is bullying and I am sure most would consider it indefensible.

  8. INEOS have made it perfectly clear that there is no requirement for well pads on the NT site, and have only been seeking to run seismic tests. They have also stated that any future potential drilling could be conducted from outside the NT land. Previously, seismic testing has been conducted on the NT land, and all around it. Why on earth would the NT be expected to be for or against fracking? Where does that fit within their areas of responsibility, especially if it is not going to happen on the land they manage?

    You can argue all you want about this one, but it is not up to each land manager to decide to operate UDI. If a company purchases a licence they are obliged to conduct testing and are legally entitled to do so. The Courts will now decide, as the NT would not enter into dialogue. If that is an accurate outline of the situation I don’t think any Court would be happy to start with a situation which could have been avoided through dialogue that one party declined.

    Fracking in England is currently authorised, and only objected about by a minority, and it will be down to the Courts to decide this situation. I recognise you have to classify INEOS as a bully, but what will you say if the Courts decide in their favour? A conspiracy and the Court is a bully? Suspect so. First it was the ASA, then the police, then the Courts regarding planning, then the Courts regarding prosecutions, then the Courts regarding injunctions. This would just be another for the collection. However, I suspect this may not get to that stage, but we will see.

    The antis will have to get used to dealing with a serious player like INEOS. INEOS have not been successful by being rolled over, and the previous tactics of the antis will be challenged, as I would have thought the injunction would have demonstrated. I suspect someone will shortly pay the financial penalty for misreading the runes but if it is through a legal process then the “bully” label will not stick, but will be retained as a comfort blanket.

    • 1. Whether they drill on NT land or not there is evidence to suggest the environment could be damaged. Also are you naïve enough to think INEOS won’t try to force their way onto NT land to drill if they did find gas deposits?

      2. The NT should most definitely be expected to oppose fracking. It’s a core part of their ethos to protect the natural environment – from physical damage and more wide reaching effects such as climate change and over exploitation of natural resources.

      3. The government shouldn’t have the right to give licences allowing private companies to force their way onto land owned buy private people/organisations. How would you like it if someone knocked on your door demanding to carry out work on something you oppose?

      4. The NT have invited INEOS to meet them, in fact you will find in the media an open letter sent by the NT doing just so. Just because they refused access doesn’t mean they refused dialogue.

      5. Coal mining is authorised in England but still requires the landowners permission. Building a child’s playground is also allowed but requires the landowners consent. Need I go on?

      The NT did not become one of Europe’s biggest conservation charities by rolling over every time somebody tried to do something damaging to our heritage or environment that it protects so INEOS are in for a fight. I’m fairly certain the NTs 5 million + members could pack quite a political punch if they wanted to

  9. Adiós Ineos , this is not about rich or poor , it is a joining of forces against a despicable industry who’s only thought is for feed to make more plastics. I sense desperation in the comments of the same FEW pro frackers here . I would not count on the verdict being a foregone conclusion.

  10. No ones counting on the verdict, Jono. Courts can be quite strange beasts, but you really need to come up with some more original tag lines. “Bullying” is a bit silly when INEOS have already achieved an injunction against the antis to protect against this exact activity. Trying to reflect that is what I remember from the Primary School. Copying, but without the same verification. Plastic is also pretty lame. INEOS do a lot more than plastic, and anyway it is the excessive use of plastic and poor disposal that is the problem, not the manufacture. Scalpels have been used to kill people but the manufacturers are not responsible for that.

    It is interesting to see the antis searching for a platform to attack INEOS from, but I suspect you are a long way from finding one that will work. I really don’t see any reason, against that background, that desperation, or anything like it, is a concern. Equally, I thought it was the antis who were trying to recruit extra activists to produce a last flicker from the dying embers? (Not that the recent contributions from antis on DOD would support any level of success.)

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