Landowners are joining forces with solicitors to launch what they are calling a “legal blockade” against fracking on national park land. This comes after ministers hinted towards changes in trespass laws so that landowner consent wouldn’t be required for shale gas extraction.
Residents from Sussex are launching the campaign due to “legitimate concerns” about the environmental impact of fracking near to their homes, including the possibility of horizontal drilling under their land by Celtique Energie.
Solicitors acting on behalf of some residents from the village of Fenhurst have written to oil and gas firm Celtique Energie and energy secretary Ed Davey. They say that they will deny them permission for horizontal drilling under their land and properties.
Under current case law set out by the Supreme Court back in 2010, shale gas companies must obtain permission from landowners before carrying out drilling, or obtain special permission from a court.
However, the Telegraph reported last week that ministers were looking at ways in which they could change trespass laws to make it easier for shale gas companies to drill without obtaining permission from landowners.
Sussex landowner Marcus Adams said, “People right across the country have legitimate concerns about the impact of fracking on their communities – from water contamination to air and noise pollution from heavy lorry traffic – but all this happening in a national park just doesn’t bear thinking about.”
He added, “Trespass law gives residents a chance to stand up to powerful corporations wanting to drill under their homes, but now the government wants to take this protection away from them. Many Tory voters here will be baffled by a government ready to bend the rule of law and chip away at homeowners’ rights to clear a path for the industrialisation of our countryside.”
Environmental campaigners at Greenpeace welcomed the legal blockade. A spokesperson said, “As ministers’ desperate charm offensive on fracking is given the cold shoulder, the Fernhurst legal blockade is likely to become a blueprint for local resistance right across the country.”
Despite David Cameron publicly pledging his full support for fracking, including offering generous tax breaks to firms and full business rate retention for cash-strapped local authorities, a recent study suggests that only one in five Britons would support the controversial process in their backyard.
Asked about the “legal blockade” in Sussex, a spokesperson for Celtique Energie said, “The horizontal well would be located exclusively within the ownership of the land owners with whom Celtique has entered into a leasing agreement for its proposed exploration well.”
They added, “The horizontal well is only an option at this stage and would be drilled on the basis of positive data from the vertical well.”