‘Fracking’ Councils Could Pocket Millions
Financial rewards worth over a million pounds a year will be given to councils that give permission for “fracking” projects in their areas.The move, announced by David Cameron, has angered campaign groups who are opposed to the controversial method of extracting shale gas from deep underground.
The Prime Minister has declared that shale gas exploration is part of his long-term economic plan and says local authorities that allow drilling will receive 100% of the business rates collected from the scheme – double the current 50%.
Whitehall officials estimate that could be worth £1.7m extra a year for each site a council agrees.
The move comes as French energy giant Total is expected to announce it is investing millions of pounds in firms with drilling licences in the UK.
The news is a blow for hundreds of people who object to fracking in their communities.
On Sunday, protesters gathered from across the country to take part in a march in Salford close to an exploratory drilling site in an area known as Barton Moss.
Among the campaigners was Jackie Anderson, a teacher who lives within a mile of the site.
She told Sky News: “For the local residents it’s got no benefit whatsoever. More and more the businesses and the councils are going to benefit because the incentives are going to them and we’re getting none of the benefits at all.”
Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, is a process that involves drilling thousands of feet down into the earth to create a narrow well. Water and chemicals are then pumped in at high pressure to create fractures in the rock. Gas then flows from the cracks and is captured.
Vanessa Vine, who founded the British Anti-Fracking Action Network, travelled to Salford for the demonstration.
She has taken part in a long-running protest against a test site near her home in Balcombe in Sussex.
She told Sky News: “Concerns of local residents range from everything from heavy traffic through villages, damage to the roads, right up to triggering of earthquakes and permanent, potentially permanent contamination of the groundwater, of the aquifer, of drinking water.”
The Government estimates the industry could attract £3.7bn a year in investment and support 74,000 jobs.
Last year, new data from the British Geological Survey showed up to double the amount of shale gas could be extracted in the UK than previously thought.
Then, the Government pledged to give local communities £100,000 for each test-drilling project and a further 1% of the revenues if shale gas was discovered.
It is thought there may be as much as 1,300 trillion cubic feet at the Bowland site in Lancashire alone.
Tory peer Lord Howell of Guildford sparked anger in northern communities in July by suggesting fracking should take place in “desolate areas” in the north, a comment he later apologised for.
Announcing the latest financial incentives, David Cameron said: “A key part of our long-term economic plan to secure Britain’s future is to back businesses with better infrastructure.
“That’s why we’re going all out for shale. It will mean more jobs and opportunities for people, and economic security for our country.”
Writing in the Sun on Sunday, business minister Michael Fallon said it could “drive down the cost of power for hard-working families and businesses”.
But environmentalists have dismissed those claims.
Lawrence Carter, from Greenpeace, said: “This is a naked attempt by the government to bribe hard-pressed councils into accepting fracking in their area.
“Cameron is effectively telling councils to ignore the risks and threat of large-scale industrialisation in exchange for cold hard cash.
“But the proposal reveals just how worried the Government is about planning applications being turned down.
“Having had their claims that fracking will bring down energy bills and create jobs thoroughly discredited, the Government is now resorting to straight up bribery to sell their deeply unpopular fracking policy.”