Landowners Form Legal Block Against UK Shale Development

  • Date: 03/02/14
  • Emily Gosden and Jasper Copping, The Daily Telegraph

Campaign group Greenpeace has signed up thousands of landowners across the country to deny permission for drilling.

Fernhurst anti-fracking campaigners (l-r): Fiona and Mark Cam, Julie and Martyn Knights, Judy and Marcus Adams, Joan Eastwood and John Buchanan. The Knights, the Adams and Mr Buchanan are part of the “legal blockade”. Photo: Jane Mingay

Fracking opponents have claimed an early victory in the battle over British shale gas exploration, forming a “legal blockade” to thwart the controversial process at a site in the South Downs National Park.

Five landowners including Viscount Cowdray have written to Ed Davey, the energy secretary, to say that they do not give permission for any drilling beneath their land, which surrounds a proposed exploration site near Fernhurst, West Sussex.

The opposition would effectively block company Celtique Energie from drilling a horizontal well of sufficient length to ‘frack’ it to extract any shale oil or gas it discovers.

Under trespass law, Celtique would have to ask Mr Davey and the courts to overrule the landowners.

Andrew Wiseman of Harrison Grant solicitors, representing the landowners, said the proposed site of the drilling rig was now “totally surrounded”, making fracking from it “impossible”.

Even if the rig was placed elsewhere on the land, it would make fracking “incredibly difficult”, he said.

The Telegraph revealed last week that ministers are considering overhauling trespass law to make it easier to drill under land without owners’ consent, removing the need to take hostile landowners to court, amid fears that blockades such as in Fernhurst could otherwise stymie hopes of a UK shale gas boom.

Campaign group Greenpeace has signed up thousands of landowners across the country to deny permission for drilling.

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