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Anti-frackers ‘horrified’ as drilling begins at former bomb test site

ANTI-FRACKING activists were “horrified” yesterday when a “monster convoy” of trucks arrived under the cover of darkness to start drilling for shale gas at a former bomb test site.

In the latest sign that the dash for shale gas in England is plumbing new depths, fracking firm IGas is now poised to drill an exploratory well in the village of Misson in Nottinghamshire.

The controversial location, officially known as “The Rocket Site,” was used by the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a surface-to-air missile pad in the cold war. Prior to that, it served as a bombing range.

A preliminary assessment of the site in 2015 found that there was still a “medium risk” from unexploded ordnance.

The report, written by several groups including BombRisk.com, warned that the “housekeeping of former RAF sites was “often poor.”

It warned: “Live and expended munitions are regularly encountered on such sites.”

Misson Parish Council estimates that 400,000 bombs were dropped on or around the test site between 1934 and 1958.

The site is currently owned by a family business, L Jackson and Co Limited, which sells military vehicles and equipment.

In 2009, a director of the company was jailed for selling military personnel carriers to Sudan’s dictatorship in breach of a UN embargo.

Former Green Party leader Natalie Bennett joined villagers in Misson yesterday to show her solidarity.

She told the Morning Star that she was shocked to see “a very large police presence” in the village.

Ms Bennett counted 30 officers accompanying a drilling rig past local residents who were peacefully protesting. She said: “It’s horrifying to see the police here.”

A spokesperson from Nottinghamshire Police confirmed that “officers attended a site in Misson today to facilitate a lawful protest” but said “no arrests have been made.”

IGas has planning permission for exploratory drilling at the site. Critics say the drilling will lead to fracking in the future.

Ms Bennett said it was a “fracking farce” to be drilling at a former bomb test site, as well as raising concerns about wildlife and climate change.

“It’s right beside a protected site for endangered long-eared owls,” she said. “It’s wildly unsuitable. It’s an old military site where they used to drop and test bombs.

“Scotland and Wales have blocked fracking. The rest of Europe is racing ahead with renewables. Yet here in England we are still having to fight off this dinosaur fossil fuel industry.”

A spokesperson from IGas Energy Plc said: “IGas has planning permission and environmental permits to drill a vertical exploration well at the Springs Road site in north Nottinghamshire to take geological samples from the ground.

“We take our environmental responsibility extremely seriously and as an experienced onshore operator are used to working alongside environmentally sensitive areas such as the Beckingham Marshes Nature Reserve and the South Downs National Park.

“Eighty-four per cent of UK households rely on gas for heating and forecasts see the country set to import almost 75 per cent of its gas demand by 2035, costing us £7.5 billion per year. It is important therefore that we find out if the gas beneath our feet has the potential to make a major difference to future UK energy security of supply.”

No-one from L Jackson and Co Limited was available to comment.

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