Campaigners hoping to protect Sherwood Forest, including the iconic Major Oak tree, from controversial fracking have been given a boost by the landowner.
Thoresby Estate has said it will not agree to either a test rig or a permanent well site on any of its land, which embraces Sherwood Forest’s country park and its nature reserve.
The statement follows the revelation that Ineos, a chemical firm which has licences to look for shale under huge swathes of Nottinghamshire, has plans to start exploratory drilling under the ancient forest, which is known worldwide as Robin Hood country.
Thoresby Estate, which owns the 180-hectare country park and part of the nature reserve, has now poured cold water on the project.
Resident agent Nick Brown declared: “There will no shale gas well head at Sherwood Forest.
Mr Brown said: “Ineos has approached Thoresby Estate, as landowner, about carrying out seismic surveys in Sherwood Forest, but nothing has yet been agreed.
“If the estate does not enter into a licence with Ineos, it is possible that the firm could use powers contained within the Geological Survey Act 1845 to challenge this refusal.
“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.
“One assurance to be sought will be that exclusion areas will be set up around each tree to prevent damage from the mechanics of the survey.”
Fracking is a drilling technique designed to recover gas and oil from shale rock. Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure, which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well.
Fracking of shale gas could contribute significantly to the UK’s future energy needs. Ineos’s shale operations director Tim Pickering says: “Potentially, we have a huge supply of indigenous gas under our own feet. It would be crazy not to explore this natural resource.”
However, plans across the country have met with vehement opposition because of environmental and health concerns.
Greg Hewitt, of Frack Free Nottinghamshire, says: “We will show solidarity in the fight against fracking in this beautiful area of the county.”
Nottinghamshire County Council, which manages Sherwood Forest Country Park, says it has yet to receive any planning applications for shale gas development, or for any oil or gas extraction, at or near the site.
The council has promised to “do everything in our power to ensure the park’s heritage and conservation are protected”.
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