Most of Sherwood Forest could be fracked for shale gas if the government gets its way. On 18 August, a consultation was launched on nine potential blocks around the Sherwood Forest area, most of which are on the Southern edge of the Gainsborough Trough (the orange area shows where the British Geological Survey says there could be shale gas, lilac indicates a double layer of shale gas):
Each of the licence blocks is defined by a 10km square. The government has produced an interactive map showing the shale gas area in relation to licence blocks. Blocks in the potential shale gas area include:
These blocks are subject to consultation because they are within 10km of a European-listed wildlife site - either the Birklands & Bilhaugh Special Area of Conservation (ancient woodland around the Major Oak) or the South Pennine Moors Special Protection Area.
In each case the government recommendation is to license all of these blocks to allow fracking anywhere except actually in Birklands & Bilhaugh SAC. Fracking would be allowed under this area.
(See extract from the government recommendations - which suggest no conditions for any of the licences except SK66b, claiming no AEOI (adverse effect on the integrity of European sites). Activities are divided into A (non-intrusive exploration including seismic testing which would be allowed even in the ancient woodland area), B (exploration drilling), C (well development), D (production). B, C and D could include fracking and would be prohibited 'at or near to the surface within the boundaries' of the Birklands and Bilhaugh SAC, but would be licensed without conditions everywhere else in these blocks around Sherwood Forest.)
The Sherwood Forest area centred on Ollerton is already the earthquake capital of Britain as a result of previous coal mining. The sandstone which creates the Sherwood Forest habitat running down the centre of Notts is also a major source of groundwater. It is not clear what, if any, consideration has been given to these issues in the government's 'Appropriate Assessment'. The government has previously said that only the immediate zone around water abstraction points (SPZ1) should be protected from fracking, and not the whole groundwater zone (SPZ3) - see Impact Assessment for Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing (Protected Areas) Regulations.
Groundwater source protection zones in central Notts
It also seems that no consideration has been given to other wildlife sites. Greenpeace has a map showing Sites of Special Scientific Interest which are in the proposed licence blocks. Friends of the Earth's 'frackingmap' shows groundwater source protection zones. It should be said that fracking companies will have to get planning permission and an environmental permit as well as a licence, when further consideration will have to be given to environmental protection. It is clear that the government wants to allow fracking almost everywhere across Sherwood Forest. Will the Notts Planning Committee and the Environment Agency agree?
As well as the blocks listed above which are subject to consultation, the government has already announced successful bidders for another 27 blocks including ten affecting Nottinghamshire (see our separate page: Will they frack the Nottingham-Derby Greenbelt?).