Demonstrators are to gather in Sherwood Forest tomorrow as a show of support for the iconic Nottinghamshire woodland in the midst of shale gas exploration.
Fracking licence holder Ineos has said it could frack underneath the forest and landowners at the Thorsby Estate have submitted to formal requests to allow the drilling of test cores to examine the resources miles underground, but said they would 'never' allow fracking within the national nature reserve.
The East Midlands can expect around 10 well sites per 100 square kilometres, and at least 10 wells at each site, according to Ineos. Across the East Midlands this would mean around 350 wells in total.
But campaigner Greg Hewitt of Frack-Free Notts said: "This is just a starting point - they'll need hundreds of wells to make it viable."
And in addition to the impact on the landscape and ecology, the group is concerned about the industry’s impact on roads.
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.
"We're seeing numerous breaches of safety conditions across the UK already. Planning conditions aren't being enforced and the fracking companies say all the time we've got gold standard regulations, but they're breaching planning conditions. Ineos themselves have had numerous safety failures, explosions in Germany, workers having injuries - I don't know how the public can believe a company with so many bad practices will act responsibly in exploring and extracting shale gas."
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.
Friends of the Earth said Ineos has now been blocked by six Parish Councils in the East Midlands, and claim an FI request made to the Forestry Commission has revealed proposed plans to place drilling rig within the Lings near Clipstone, said to be part of the historic Sherwood Forest although outside 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 potential sites identified by Friends of the Earth is a commercial pine operation.
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."
In a recent opinion piece for the Chad, Skegby campaigner Harriet MacKenzie-Williams highlighted her concerns in Ineos's advertorial which has appeared in the newspaper and claimed US reports reveal the dangers as the vast majority of wells fail safety tests.
On the report, Mr Pickering said: "There are a million US shale gas wells working today, it's an industry’s process with risk issues associated with it but it's benefited the US economy and it's developing day to day."
"I know the report she is quoting and those figures are to do with the drilling and integrity testing not wellbore rate failure. "The 75 per cent failure rate is to do with the way they test the well. You perform the test to ensure you achieve integrity and you keep re-testing until you achieve it.
Mrs MacKenzie-Williams responded: "In America these aren't wells that were tested to destruction, they were wells in use that failed while they were in operation, or after they were gone massive leakages were occurring."
The mum and financial adviser, 48, said: "Looking at what you see in the States, it would be more likely to be in the thousands by the time the shale industry is fully developed.”
Land Agent of the Thorsby Estate Nick Brown told the Chad: "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. We're not against fracking as a matter of course but the land that we own that is under consideration is not appropriate."