‘No mining plans for North Staffs’, royal Duchy assures MP over ancient mineral rights

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01 Oct 2013
The Duchy of Lancaster has told Newcastle’s MP Paul Farrelly that it has no plans to exercise its centuries-old rights to excavate minerals beneath thousands of North Staffordshire homes.  

The assurance was given after the Duchy wrote to property owners in Stoke and Newcastle advising them that it was re-registering its ancient rights because of a change in the law.   

The Duchy’s actions affect a large swathe of properties that once formed part of the medieval Manor of Newcastle, parts of which were sold to developers during the last century.   

Despite the sale, the Duchy still retains its rights to exploit the minerals - such as gravel, clay and oil - that lie beneath the land.   

But the Land Registration Act 2002 means that in order to protect these rights beyond October 2013, the Duchy has had to renew its interests, resulting in notices being sent to 12,000 property owners in Newcastle and Stoke.  

Mr Farrelly wrote to the Duchy on behalf of worried residents who had received letters from the Land Registry advising them that the Duchy had applied to re-register its ancient manorial mineral rights.   

Now the Duchy has assured Mr Farrelly that “it is simply responding to a change in the law” and that “this is not indicative of any intention to exercise these rights in the foreseeable future.”   

In his letter, the Duchy’s solicitor, Tim Crow, added that “the Duchy’s actions are about protection and not extraction.” 

His assurance was welcomed by Mr Farrelly, who said it would come as a relief to any residents who feared the Duchy had plans to start drilling for gas under their homes.

 ‘Several constituents approached me, a little worried, after receiving these letters to ask what it all meant. Some wondered if they need to get hold of solicitors, which could be costly.’

 'I am pleased, therefore, that the Duchy has made it clear to me that it is just updating rights that are already in place. Residents need not now be concerned that there’ll be any digging or mining under their homes as a result.’

 ‘People could actually, if they felt strongly, write to the Land Registry and object. But doing nothing is a safe option and there’s certainly no need to get lawyers involved.’ 

The Duchy of Lancaster owns 46,000 acres of land across the country, worth £350m, which provide income for the Queen, just as profits from the Duchy of Cornwall go to Prince Charles. A government minister, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster – currently Lord Hill of Oareford, Leader of the House of Lords - is answerable to Parliament for the way the Duchy is run, including the exercise of any mineral rights.