By Jon Ungoed-Thomas, February 5 2017: One of the world’s biggest manufacturers of chemical and oil products has threatened the National Trust with legal action to force it to allow exploration for shale gas on its land.
Ineos Shale, part of the Ineos Group, which is headed by the billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, is the country’s leading shale gas company. It has government licences that give it access to about 1m acres of potential shale gas reserves.
These includes National Trust land at Clumber Park, near Worksop in Nottinghamshire.
However, the trust has refused access to the historic country park for seismic surveys, arguing that it has “a presumption against fracking on our land” and will not allow access for exploration.
An investigation by Greenpeace into fracking has established that Ineos Shale has threatened the trust with compulsory access to the land under the Mines (Working Facilities and Support) Act 1966.
Tom Pickering, operations director of Ineos Shale, which is based in London, confirmed last week that the company had warned the trust that it could use the act, but said he hoped negotiations would continue.
He said: “If we cannot achieve access by negotiation, then the provisions under this act are available to us and we would pursue them.”
Ineos would require ministerial approval as well as a court order to gain access to the popular park, which consists of 3,800 acres of scenic woodland heath and pasture and boasts a walled garden and the longest double avenue of lime trees in Europe.
The potential legal battle could prove an important test case for the trust’s position on fracking.
Richard Hebditch, the trust’s external affairs director, said the Ineos request for a seismic survey for shale gas was the first on trust land. He said the trust was standing by its decision to turn down the application. He said: “The trust is opposed to fracking on its land and will reject any fracking requests or inquiries.”
One of the main reasons the trust opposes fracking is the fact that it contributes to carbon emissions. However, Ineos argues that gas releases about half the carbon emissions of coal when burnt and claims it can play a key role in helping Britain move towards a greener energy policy.
Ineos has been accused of using “bullying” tactics to gain access to land for surveys. Documents obtained by Greenpeace under freedom of information legislation reveal that the British Geological Society claimed Ineos was using the society’s name without authorisation to persuade landowners to allow it onto their properties.
Ineos said it had investigated and there was no evidence of any bullying tactics or misleading information being given.