Mansfield divided over Sherwood Forest fracking surveys

Hundreds of people gathered to protest against plans to test for shale gas in Sherwood Forest.

Wednesday, 11th January 2017, 9:51 am
Updated Wednesday, 11th January 2017, 9:56 am
Protest rally against fracking surveys in Sherwood Forest
Protest rally against fracking surveys in Sherwood Forest

Holding placards and banners, the crowds took part in a rally through the country park.

Anti-fracking campaigners are calling on the Government to intervene after it emerged fracking firm Ineos is looking at carrying out surveys beneath the ancient woodland.

A recent Freedom of Information request from Friends of the Earth revealed Ineos, a chemical firm which has licences to look for shale under huge swathes of Nottinghamshire, has plans to undertake initial drilling under the forest – famed for its association with legendary outlaw Robin Hood.

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Ineos could be working within 200 metres of the famous Major Oak, Friends of the Earth have claimed.

Nigel Lee, of Friends of the Earth Nottingham, who attended Saturday’s event, said: “Several hundred people attended the event and made it clear that in no way should there be fracking in Sherwood Forest and that they don’t want seismic testing.”

He said campaigners would continue to make their voices heard.

The campaigners have been supported by one of the owners of Sherwood Forest land.

Thoresby Estate has said it will not agree to either a test rig or a permanent well site on any of its land, which includes Sherwood Forest’s country park and its nature reserve.

Resident agent Nick Brown said:“There will no shale gas well head at Sherwood Forest.”

He said Ineos has approached the estate about carrying out seismic surveys in Sherwood Forest, but nothing has been agreed.

However, Ineos could challenge the refusal by using powers contained within the Geological Survey Act 1845 to force the estate to give it access to the land.

Mr Brown said: “If Thoresby Estate is obliged to give access for surveys, it will negotiate, in co-operation with its many partners, to ensure the ancient woodland is protected as far as it may be.”

Mansfield residents are divided over plans for shale gas surveys to take place in Sherwood Forest.

Carrie Green, aged 24, a carer from Mansfield, said: “I really don’t want Sherwood Forest to be touched.

“It’s such a beautiful place. I used to go there as a child, so I have memories there – and I still go now.

“It needs to be left alone and to be protected. I would be against any fracking there.”

Also against the plans is 53-year-old bar manager Jeanette Moss, from Blidworth.

She said: “If it’s going to interfere with the wildlife, then I don’t want them there. I go and visit and I don’t want it spoilt.”

“However, we don’t know all the facts yet, or what effect fracking could have.

“We need more information really.”

However, not everyone is opposed to the idea, with some saying it could help create jobs in the area and be an energy source.

Ken Richmond, 70, from Mansfield said: “The fact is we need fuel.

“All this about the Major Oak is just scaremongering at the moment.”

“Fuel is running out and it would be a lot cheaper than importing it and buying it from Russia or wherever, and it would help the area.

“We need more jobs around here, to grow our industry.

“There’s lots of people out of work. It would help.”

Ciaran Coalwood, 45, from Mansfield, said: “As a whole, there is a case for fracking.

“Gas and oil are becoming scarce and we need to find a new source of energy.

“Something does need to be done, but it needs to be done with care as pumping chemicals into the soil could contaminate the water table.

“We don’t want to harm the land.”

Nottinghamshire County Council says it has not received any planning applications for shale gas development which involve fracking, or for any oil or gas extraction, in or near Sherwood Forest Country Park.

Mark Spencer, Sherwood MP, has slammed the claims by Friends of the Earth that seismic testing will take place close the Major Oak.

He said: “Seismic surveys are taking place across the whole of the East Midlands, and only a tiny proportion of that area will be suitable for fracking.

“Besides which we have been mining coal underneath Sherwood Forest for many years and nobody had a problem with that, so the idea working underground there would have any major new impact on the forest or on tourism is rubbish.”

However, Sir Alan Meale, Mansfield MP, said the plan “beggars belief” and that he has been in contact with Ineos to tell the firm he will oppose them.

He said: “Mansfield is prone to subsidence because of coal mining. Fracking in the area is madness. They are doing this for personal gain while putting people at risk.

“I have told them straight up that I am opposing this.”

Gloria De Piero, Ashfield MP, has also said she will not support Ineos.

She said:“It is Labour party policy that fracking will be banned if we win the next general election and I completely agree with this.

“We need a clean, secure, low-carbon future in the UK, so the Government should be looking at investing in renewable sources of energy such as solar and on-shore wind, before it commits to the use of another fossil fuel like shale gas.

“I would be very concerned if protected areas such as Sherwood Forest or any of Ashfield’s beauty spots were to be threatened by fracking, but I have not been informed of any applications that suggest this is going to happen.”

Ineos has stated that no decision had yet been made on whether fracking will go ahead under the national nature reserve, adding “any decision to position a well site will take into account environmental features such as the Major Oak”.

Tom Pickering, the firm’s shale operations director, said the firm is preparing to carry out seismic imaging surveys across the East Midlands, which includes part of Sherwood Forest.

He said: “This process does not include fracking in any form.

“Seismic imaging involves transmitting soundwaves into the earth and recording the corresponding soundwaves reflected back to the surface. The data acquired helps us understand the subsurface layers and fracture systems and determine potential drilling locations from a geological perspective.

“Further analysis of surface constraints is required before a drilling site can be considered suitable.”

“Ineos believes that energy provision is currently a key issue for the UK.

“As we close our coal and nuclear power stations, we will need to find environmentally friendly alternatives if we want to keep our homes warm and the lights on.”