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Lancashire Demands Bigger Slice Of Shale Profits

Michael Savage, The Times

MPs and councils in Lancashire will not support fracking unless local communities receive a far bigger slice of the spoils, David Cameron has been warned.

A standing offer by the shale gas industry to hand local communities 1 per cent of the revenue from nearby fracking wells “doesn’t go nearly far enough”, according to a cross-party letter dispatched to the Prime Minister last night.

The letter, seen by The Times, has been signed by four of the county’s council leaders and local MPs from all three main political parties. The group states that a tenfold increase in the present offer would mark a good “starting point to begin discussions”.

“Without some significant retention of the revenues, and therefore the benefits of shale gas exploration, we would find it difficult to support further development in Lancashire,” the letter states.

It is a big setback for Mr Cameron, who hopes to unleash an “all out” drive to exploit fracking, the process used to extract shale gas from rock buried deep underground.

Lancashire is home to a potentially huge gas reservoir, worth as much as £136 billion. Local councils hold huge power over whether fracking sites are approved.

“Successive governments have stated their desire to close the North/South divide, but it remains questionable as to how much has been delivered,” the letter states. “Shale gas gives you the once-in-a-generation chance to put actions to the words. A series of poor communication initiatives from the shale gas companies is in danger of hardening opposition.

“We reject the so-called voluntary arrangements decided, without local consultation, between the industry and the Government. These do not go far enough in incentivising support.”

Ben Wallace, the Tory MP for Lancaster and Wyre, Jack Straw, the former Foreign Secretary, and Gordon Birtwistle, the Liberal Democrat MP for Burnley, have all put their names to the concerns. Lancashire County Council, Cheshire West County Council, Wyre Borough Council, Fylde Council and Chorley District Council have also signed the letter.

They say that some tax revenues, set to have the Treasury eventually take more than 60 per cent of the money produced by shale gas, should be diverted to local communities.

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