The UK’s biggest shale gas company is expected to issue court documents in the next few days in its legal challenge against the National Trust over access to Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire.
INEOS Upstream wants to carry out surveys for shale gas in the Grade 1 historic park. But the National Trust has refused access. It said INEOS had not demonstrated why the surveys were necessary.
In February, the Oil and Gas Authority, acting for the government, granted permission to INEOS to bring its case against the Trust.
The company was at the High Court this afternoon for a hearing to make arrangements for the challenge – the first of its kind for nearly 40 years.
INEOS said a letter and court papers would be sent by the end of next week to anyone with an interest in the land at Clumber Park.
The company has committed to carry out 100km of 2D seismic surveys and 100km2 of 3D surveys as a condition of its petroleum exploration licence (PEDL) that includes Clumber Park. The survey will help INEOS decide where to drill and frack for shale gas.
INEOS said previously that the seismic surveys were not intrusive and represented no threat to the park. The survey was in the national interest and, in refusing access, the National Trust had behaved unreasonably, INEOS has said.
The National Trust has said INEOS had “not yet followed the proper planning process, which would involve them fully considering the potential environmental impacts”. The Trust also said it had no wish for its land to “play any part in extracting gas or oil”.
Today’s hearing was told that Clumber Park made up only about 15% of the PEDL. But INEOS’s barrister, James Hanham, said access was needed to avoid inaccuracies in the survey.
INEOS is bringing the case under the Mines (Working Facilities and Support) Act 1966. This allows courts to allow access to other people’s land to search for or extract oil and gas if it is “expedient in the national interest” and it is not “reasonably practicable to obtain the right my private arrangement”.
INEOS told the court it had identified anyone with an interest in the land within Clumber Park, such as tenants, property owners and licencees. As well as the National Trust, this includes the Caravan Club, an electricity substation and trustees of a cricket club, the court heard.
Mr Hanham said INEOS proposed to write informing the people on the list about the case and the right to object.
He said participants in the case should be limited to people with a direct interest in the land. Chief Master Matthew Marsh, the senior court officer at today’s hearing, agreed:
“Just because it is expedient in the national interest, the whole nation does not have a right to comment.
“This is a localised interest in the land.”
The deadline to submit objections is 8 June 2018. There will be a further hearing on 13 July 2018 to decide which people who have objected will be allowed to participate in the case.
Chief Master Marsh rejected INEOS plans to install notices about the challenge on posts around Clumber Park. He also said it was not necessary to advertise in a local newspaper.
INEOS agreed to put most of the court papers on a dedicated website, to which only the people contacted by the company would have access.
Chief Master Marsh said the case should be classed as a category A – one of great substance or difficulty or of public importance. It would be decided by a High Court Judge, he said, at a hearing at which witnesses were likely to be called to give evidence and to be cross-examined.
Representatives of the National Trust and the Oil & Gas Authority did not take part in today’s hearing.
- INEOS is challenging Rotherham Borough Council at a public inquiry starting on 24 April over the non-determination of its application for shale gas drilling at a site at Harthill. The company will also be challenging Derbyshire County Council in June for the same reason over an application at Marsh Lane. Two campaigners are seeking to go to the Court of Appeal over INEOS’s injunction against anti-fracking protests.