Fylde has the potential to see an Aberdeen-style boost to its economy from fracking, says the borough’s MP.
Mark Menzies believes the hunt for shale gas could see the area’s wealth increase significantly thanks to Government incentives and new jobs.
It comes after Prime Minister David Cameron announced a series of tax sweeteners for local authorities if fracking – the controversial process of recovering shale gas – was approved.
But Mr Menzies said safety – not a cash bonanza – was the top priority.
He told The Gazette: “Fylde is right at the forefront of this issue and I care deeply the right decisions are made.
“The cash benefit is not the top priority at this stage. First and foremost, we need to ensure the correct regulation is in place and I’m assured everything is being done in that regard.
“This is not our first experience of drilling for gas on shore – there are already regulations in place and we need to make sure they are correctly and adequately adapted to cover fracking and shale gas.”
There have been concerns raised over whether current legislation adequately or safely covers the new industry.
Mr Menzies said it was vital the planning process was “robust” and “the right decisions” were taken about “the correct sites”.
He says he argued against a proposed fracking site at Anna’s Road, Westby, which has now been scrapped.
Mr Menzies added: “The benefit to communities is the next matter to look at over and above making sure Fylde gets as much additional extra cash as under any incentives which are introduced.
“We will have to ask if there are any roles for local people such as supply chain or research and development jobs.
“It could be a similar situation to Aberdeen. That is where drilling for North Sea gas had its origins.
“It turned Aberdeen from a fairly run down town to one of the richest cities in Europe.
“I’m a great believer any cash benefit should go directly to the people affected and the suggestion that individual households should receive it is a workable one. But there will have to be detailed consultation with communities.”
Gas firm Cuadrilla hopes to frack a series of sites across the Fylde coast.
But campaigners are fearful of the potential affects on the local environment from hydraulic fracturing – the correct name for fracking – whereby water and chemicals are blasted deep underground to free the shale gas.
The concerns include potential water pollution, earth tremors and the over industrialisation of rural areas.
Mr Menzies added: “I would assure those against fracking I’m doing everything I can to make sure the right regulations are in place before anything starts.
“In various ways, particularly technology, we are 10 years ahead of when work started in the USA.”
Mr Menzies’ comments have not won over campaigners – some say Government tax offers are tantamount to “bribes” to local councils in order to approve fracking.
Tina Rothery, of Residents Action on Fylde Fracking, said: “We find Mark Menzies’ position somewhat confusing.
“He goes from supporting shale gas extraction to taking credit for the closure of Anna’s Road. And in terms of regulation, how does he define ‘good’ regulation?
“As for the money, we believe that puts councils in such a compromising position.
“They are being asked if they think a site is right and then being told there is money in it for them. It is putting them in a ridiculous position.”
The decision on whether to allow fracking rests with Lancashire County Council.