The organisation representing owners and managers of more than half the rural land in England and Wales has accused INEOS of damaging goodwill by taking the National Trust to court.
The Country Land and Business Association urged the company to retract a statement that it could go back to court to force the Trust to allow access for drilling and shale gas extraction.
CLA President, Tim Breitmeyer (left), said the statement and the decision to take legal action to enforce access for seismic testing at Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire “completely undermines the positive approach you have taken to date”.
In a letter dated earlier this month, Mr Breitmeyer, told INEOS Shale Chief Executive, Ron Coyle:
“By adopting such a bullish approaching and going to court over an issue like this, you damage the goodwill that has been building between you and landowners. If you are to restore relations, I would urge you to publicly retract this statement immediately, which has caused significant concerns at a time when landowner co-operation will greatly aid the development of the industry and should be a priority for INEOS.”
CLA letter to INEOS (pdf)
Mr Breitmeyer said the CLA took no position on shale gas as an energy source and until recently its members had been sympathetic to INEOS’s approach.
The letter said:
“A number of the larger estates with which you have been working report that they were able to negotiate mutually acceptable arrangements.”
But it added:
“The recent decision to take the National Trust to court to force them to grant access for seismic surveys and your comments that if there was sufficient gas, INEOS could go back to court to force the Trust to allow it access to drill and extract it, completely undermines the positive approach you have taken to date.”
Mr Breitmeyer added that the CLA, with 30,000 members, was clear in its defence of landowners’ right to decide what activities take place on their land.
This is the latest in a run of criticism of INEOS’s case against the National Trust. A coalition of environmental organisations, community groups and academics wrote to the Prime Minister earlier this month in support of the National Trust. 15 Yorkshire landowners wrote to The Times in February and were joined by another 27 a week later.
The issue was also raised at Prime Minister’s Questions last month by the Cheshire MP, Mike Amesbury (right). He described how a constituent had been door-stepped by an INEOS land agent. Despite refusing the request for land access, she received an unsolicited pre-named contract a few days later.
Farming UK reported last week that the constituent, Alison Davies, alleged she had found people working for INEOS on her land. She told the website:
“I’d returned home and was very surprised to see them there taking pictures. They asked if they could do some exploratory work on my land but I said no and asked them to leave, but a few days later got paperwork through the door about how much they were going to pay me for anything they found. I found it very arrogant.”
Mr Amesbury added:
“Alison isn’t the first farmer in this area to make allegations of this sort of practice to me.
“She’s worried now that even if she rejects their advances they can drill underneath her land, and fears what impact that will have on the land and the grass her cows are eating. She feels that if this happens she may be forced to leave – which would be a tragedy as opening this farm was her dream.”
DrillOrDrop invited INEOS to comment on the CLA letter. This post will be updated with any response from the company.