UK Charity Bows to Ineos Before Court Showdown
UK conservation charity National Trust has walked away from a looming High Court battle with Ineos over the chemical producer’s plans to conduct pre-shale exploration seismic studies on its Clumber Park property. However, it said it will resist any plans to frack the Nottinghamshire site, independently of how much gas Ineos may discover.
In a statement, Andy Beer director for the Midlands, said the Trust’s position has not changed but after “carefully considering the extensive legal effort and all the evidence available,” the best option seemed to be to withdraw from the process. In pursuing a lawsuit against the charity, Ineos Shale had hinted that losing the case could cost the public body “hundreds of thousands of pounds.”
“Despite our best efforts to explain why Clumber Park is so sensitive and such an inappropriate site, Ineos is intent on pursuing access to survey,” Beer said. “We think it is wrong that we, or any other landowner, should be compelled to admit surveys at a place as special and loved as this,” the director commented, while adding that the charity has demanded Ineos “provide assurances that these surveys will not damage this special place.”
At the beginning of 2018, Ineos launched a publicity offensive in support of its plans for seismic surveys – which it called “unobtrusive” – while slamming the Trust’s refusal to engage with it. The UK arm of the Swiss-based group then appealed to the national Oil and Gas Authority, which granted it permission for the surveys and later to sue the charity. The OGA stressed that the UK government supports the shale industry, and that the survey is required before Ineos can explore for resources.
Much of tree-lined Clumber Park, which is part of Nottinghamshire’s Sherwood Forest of Robin Hood fame, is designated as a UK site of special scientific interest (SSSI) and a Grade I-registered park and garden because of its rare birds and plants. Ineos said it would “fully restore the land” if its testing caused any damage.
The dispute between the petrochemicals giant and the charity was a rallying point for environmental activists last spring. British, international and local groups including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the WWF, along with the action groups such as those of fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and her son Joe Corré, signed a letter to UK Prime Minister Theresa May protesting the Ineos plans.
UK landowners have also stood in with the National Trust in its battle with Ineos, fearing that the case could set a precedent, especially as it shows the government is willing to allow would-be shale gas explorers to invoke the Mines Act of 1966. This allows exploration companies to ask the government to take legal action against landowners who refuse access to their property.
Commenting on the charity’s withdrawal, the president of a Yorkshire conservation association said Ineos’ challenging a non-profit organization in such a high profile manner indicates that it is demonstrating its readiness to take legal action against any landowner that denies it access.