Church of England seeks registration of mineral rights under residents' property news
16 August 2013

Residents across England have started receiving letters from the Land Registry office, informing them that the Church was seeking registration of mineral rights to the earth beneath their property.

According to lawyers, the church's claim could see it profit from fracking, the controversial technology for oil extraction by fracturing underground rocks with water and chemicals.

In its bid to address the worries of residents, the church insisted that it had ''no particular plans to mine under any property'', though, it failed to rule out allowing fracking on its property.

A number of church leaders remain opposed to fracking.

According to The Telegraph newspaper this week, the Diocese of Blackburn had warned parishioners in Lancashire that fracking could threaten ''God's glorious creation''.

The church commissioners who managed its extensive investments are known at times not  to see eye to eye with the clergy's ethical positions.
Last month, it emerged that the commissioners had made investments in the same payday lenders that were the subject of trenchant criticism by the archbishop of Canterbury
(See: Archibishop of Canterbury vows to cut stake in pay day lender Wonga ).

According to commentators, the commissioners were looking to assert the church's ownership of mineral rights beneath up to 500,000 acres of land, an area roughly the size of Sussex.

According to lawyers, the claim, was being made under laws dating back to the Norman Conquest.

Under the age-old laws, 'lords of the manor' could exercise rights to extract anything of value from the earth underneath property on their estates.

Residents and environmentalists, though, remain strongly opposed to shale gas drilling near their homes, over concerns the process could contaminate water supplies and even trigger earthquakes.

The commissioners, however have started sending legal letters to residents informing them of the church's 'unilateral' right to benefit from any mines and minerals under their land, and one recipient spoke of his concerns that the church's claim could be linked to future fracking projects.

According to Dr Richard Lawson, a retired GP, it was an ethical question for the church, whether it would use its mineral rights to block fracking or to make money out of it?'

And one recipient, whose home was in the vicinity of  an area with proven oil reserves, it was quite perplexing that one could own one's home but then someone came along to claim they owned the ground beneath.

The church said in a statement  that it "no particular plans to mine under any property, adding, "This is confined to registering what the Commissioners have owned for many years. There is absolutely no link with fracking."

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Church of England seeks registration of mineral rights under residents' property