Fracking fears as CoE claims mineral rights under its land
Church seeks rights just days after clergy condemn fracking as risk to 'God's creation'
TWO days after the Church of England in Lancashire warned that fracking risks "damaging God's creation", there are claims the Church is seeking to profit from the controversial fossil fuel extraction technique.
The Daily Telegraph says the Church of England is seeking to register the mineral rights beneath its substantial property holdings in the UK. Residents at "thousands of homes and farms" have started receiving letters from the Land Registry informing them of its intentions.
The Church told the paper it has "no particular plans to mine under any property" but failed to rule out allowing hydraulic fracturing – or fracking - on its property.
Public hostility towards fracking has been highlighted in recent weeks by the burgeoning protests against Cuadrilla's exploration site near the West Sussex village of Balcombe. Opponents of the technique say it has been linked to a range of environmental problems including water contamination and chemical pollution.
Given the scale of the controversy and the Blackburn Diocese's outspoken opposition to fracking, the Church's latest initiative seems poorly timed. But it wouldn't be the first time the Church Commissioners who manage its extensive investments have clashed with the ethical positions of clergy.
Last month the Archbishop of Canterbury vowed to put the payday lender Wonga out of business by setting up its own credit union. But Justin Welby was left "embarrassed and irritated" when it was revealed the Church had a £75,000 stake in the loan company.
The Telegraph suggests the Church has moved to establish its ownership of mineral rights beneath up to 500,000 acres of land because a new law gives landowners until October to assert their rights. The claim is being made under laws dating back to the Norman conquest, which gave "lords of the manor" rights to exploit the earth under property of their former estates.
Dr Richard Lawson, a retired GP who lives in the Mendip Hills in Somerset, is one of the people who has received a letter from the Land Registry. He said: "It's an ethical question for the Church – will they use their mineral rights to block fracking or to make money out of it?" ·