Fans of Sherwood Forest gathered at the Major Oak over the weekend to show their support for the iconic Nottinghamshire woodland in the midst of shale gas exploration.
The demonstration follows news that shale gas exploration company Ineos has plans to frack in the Lings woodland outside Clipstone, and that Sherwood Forest landowners will allow the company to conduct pre-fracking surveys.
The Thorsby Estate has said there is no way’ it would allow fracking within the national nature reserve, but sees the benefit of geological tests so it can properly protect the woodland should fracking commense in the surrounding area.
Land Agent Nick Brown said: “We have agreed to allow seismic surveys because we think they are quite important to ensure there aren’t any problems irrespective of whether we say there’s no fracking on our land - because there will be somebody in Sherwood that will have a well on their land and we want to know what the geology is to ensure there is no disturbance on our land.
“In terms of drill sites, the only areas which have been considered well sites are on parts of our land which form part of the National Nature Reserve and there is no way we would allow drilling in an NNR.”
New documents from the Forestry Commission show Ineos has plans for two fracking wells at the Lings, prompting a row on whether the Lings is part of the historic Sherwood Forest, although not being connected to the present day woodland.
Campaigner Guy Shrubsole said: “It’s well within the limits of historic Sherwood Forest. I find it quite extraordinary that Ineos has been paying for expensive adverts in local papers saying we have no intention of placing drilling rigs in the Sherwood forest now or in the future. The part we’re talking about is forested.”
Gary Hayward of Ineos told BBC Radio Nottingham: “To call the heart of the forest an area where you can’t carry out any development is nonsense.
“One of the drill sites, we probably won’t be proceeding with. Though we don’t see why in principle we couldn’t proceed with it.”
Sherwood Forest Country Park, the SSRI and other important sites are all ‘off-limits’ he added: “We wouldn’t want to go there anyway.”
Ineos development boss Tom Pickering said in an Interview with the Chad that the firm plans to enter a drilling application for each of its 12 licence areas.
He said: “Ten cored wells would get a flavour of the area on whether gas is present or not, what is the pressure, the temperature, the natural fracture system. We expect 10 well sites and six to 10 well bores over a 100 square kilometre area.
“We would use the vertical cores data to test that gas and next we would submit a planning application to put in a horizontal frack and see if we can achieve a flow of gas to the surface.”
Ineos has warned it can take legal action if landowners refuse to allow it to conduct pre-fracking surveys to assess the geology from their land. Such a threat has already been made to the National Trust after its own refusal. But the firm said it has not made any action yet and hopes to continue via ‘reasonable’ applications to the charity over its land at Clumber Park.
Mr Pickering added: “There are provisions which prevent an owner from stopping it. It’s a national resource, we have a licence to develop it and we have a commitment to the government to explore that national resource. We haven’t begun any legal proceedings and we’ll continue to act reasonably to secure reasonably entry.”
The East Midlands can expect around 10 well sites per 100 square kilometres, and at least 10 wells at each site – totalling around 350 in the region, according to Ineos.
Campaigner Greg Hewitt of Frack-Free Notts said 350 wells in the region would “just a starting point”.
“They’ll need hundreds of wells to make it viable,” he added.
“Each fracking operation requires 9,000 truck movements per well, so when you do the maths you start to see how many trucks we’re looking at moving around the East Midlands going through villages and on rural roads each day.”
At an Ashfield District Council meeting on Thursday, February 16 councillors voted in favour of opposing fracking in the district in principle, short of having the ability to block actual applications.