Fracking at Filton Airfield? "Lord of the Manor" wants to test for shale gas
A SELF-styled Lord of the Manor who claims to hold rights to minerals lying beneath Filton Airfield wants to test the site for shale gas reserves.
If any of the much sought-after gas is discovered, Tim Shorland says he would use the controversial fracking process to extract it from the ground.
Mr Shorland, who bought the title of Lord of the Manor of Hempton and Northwick 25 years ago, will ask developers planning to transform the airfield into housing for permission to carry out the tests.
He says the title which cost him £7,000 gives him the right to tap into the "mines and minerals" a foot beneath the surface of the airfield, which was sold by landlord BAE Systems to London-based developers Bridgehouse Capital Limited last year for £120 million.
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The 72-year-old said the process of fracking – which involves the blasting of water, chemicals and sand at high velocity into a shaft to crack rock and release gas – could delay the development of the airfield by "a few years".
Mr Shorland told The Post that gas extracted from the airfield could become a cheap source of fuel for Bristol residents.
The great-grandfather has been keeping a close watch on the airfield in recent weeks to ensure contractors have not been "trespassing" on his property by digging into the surface.
Mr Shorland and fellow Lord of the Manor Tex Woodward, who claims to have legal rights to minerals on another part of the airfield as part of his title covering Compton Greenfield, believe structural work for housing can not commence on the site without their consent.
The retired asbestos removals contractor, who lives in Westbury-on- Trym, said: "I own the mining rights on the top bit of the airfield going into Patchway and Tex owns the bit under the runway and out that way towards Henbury.
"We have the right to take the gas out of the ground but would like to do some tests. There could be a fortune under there in the way of gas. I've never done any tests on the airfield before. We don't know about the fracking side of things – if it's there, it's worth a bomb.
"It would slow the development down for a few years."
Mr Shorland, who is opposed to the development of the airfield, added: "Tex and I wanted to keep that airfield. I can't explain how important it is for the aircraft industry to have an airfield. If we were in a time of crisis again and needed to build another one, we couldn't afford to do it. The cost would be colossal."
Mr Shorland, who was taken to the High Court by defence giant BAE Systems over his lordship rights in 2006, said he bought the title in a bid to fight previous plans to turn the airfield into a fully-fledged airport and to ensure Patchway retained its rural character.
Of fracking Mr Shorland said: "The people of Bristol deserve cheap fuel. In America, this process has been going on for years and years and they have enough gas to keep half the country going. You just pump water in and it picks it up."
A spokesperson from BAE Systems scoffed at Mr Shorland's claims, saying: "We have had previous dealings with Mr Shorland and do not believe there to be any truth in the claims."
But Alastair Morrison, a partner at Bristol-based law firm Burges Salmon, said Mr Shorland may be able to claim mineral rights over the land.
He said: "In some cases a 'Lord of the Manor' – a title which may have been thought to have a purely ceremonial role – may be able to claim mineral rights over land, even though that has been forgotten about over the years. However, such a right is difficult to prove and only applies to a fraction of the people with Lord of the Manor titles."
The Post revealed last month that mechanical diggers had moved onto the historic runway at Filton, just weeks after the airfield closed to flights for the very last time.
South Gloucestershire Council earmarked the site for development and wants to see 2,500 homes built there.