Fracking report sparks row

A new report found "no clear evidence" fracking operations at Preese Hall affected house prices in the area.
A new report found "no clear evidence" fracking operations at Preese Hall affected house prices in the area.

Campaigners today questioned claims fracking would have no impact on house prices if energy firm Cuadrilla is given the go ahead to drill for shale gas on the Fylde coast.

A new report, commissioned by the pro-fracking North West Energy Task Force, looked at thousands of transactions close to two onshore gas sites – at Preese Hall and Elswick – and compared them to the rest of Lancashire.

Bob Dennett

Bob Dennett

The study, published today, found “no clear evidence” that drilling at either site had an impact on property prices.

The research, carried out by property consultants JLL, looked at transactions within three miles of the two sites where gas had already been extracted – but where fracking is no longer taking place.

Cuadrilla, which hopes to frack at two separate sites in Fylde, pulled out of Preese Hall in 2013 after its exploratory drilling caused two earthquakes in 2011.

The other site on Roseacre Road, near Elswick, was hydraulically fractured – or fracked – in 1993, before being bought by Cuadrilla in 2010.

The study found house prices within three miles of Preese Hall are down 12.4 per cent on their pre-recession
peak – less than the 19.7 per cent and 22 per cent falls in Lancashire and the North West respectively.

It also found prices have gone up 7.1 per cent since 2011 – when fracking began at the site – while across Lancashire they have continued to fall.

Prices within three miles of the Elswick site fared even better, falling just 2.5 per cent since their 2007 peak.

But Bob Dennett, of Frack Free Lancashire, said: “This is not an independent report and I would question the validity of it.”

He said he was told when he sold his own house in Kirkham that the uncertainty surrounding plans to drill for shale gas nearby would lower the value of his home.

He added that evidence from other countries, including the US, shows fracking has affected property prices.

He added: “Fracking isn’t actually operating (where the research is focussed). The well in Elswick was not fracked using the same technology.”

Although the site at Elswick was vertically fracked, plans currently awaiting determination would see Cuadrilla carry out horizontal drilling on a much larger scale.

In 2013, Cuadrilla was rapped by the Advertising Standards Authority over a leaflet that drew parallels between the operation at Elswick and later “more complicated” fracking plans.

The watchdog ruled: “We noted Cuadrilla believed that there were no material differences between the two techniques. However, we understood horizontal fracking was a more complicated process as it involved both drilling down and drilling across the rock and that it used more fracturing fluid.”

Barbara Richardson, of Roseacre Awareness Group, said today’s study was “not representative” of the situation.

She said: “There has been no high-volume intensive fracking since the earthquakes in 2011.

“We have got written evidence in Roseacre of house sales falling through because of concerns over fracking.”

Adam Challis, head of residential research at JLL, said the research was a “helpful first step” in the absence of a more comprehensive study.

He added: “Land Registry data from these two sites do not show hydraulic fracturing activity to have had a material impact on local house prices.”

Blackpool estate agent Paul Linderman, owner of Paul Linderman Lettings, said he was “pleased to learn JLL’s analysis shows there has been no negative impact of shale gas extraction on property prices.”

And Babs Murphy, North and Western Lancashire Chambers of Commerce chief executive, said: “Now that we know the facts about property prices and shale, we need to 
focus on how to ensure shale gas’ economic benefits are shared by all.

“Evidence from both the United States and Aberdeen shows that local policy-makers must be properly prepared for the influx of investment and newly created jobs that increase demand for both commercial and residential properties.”

Despite criticism from campaigners, Cuadrilla said it hoped the research would “reassure” homeowners. A spokesman said: “There is no UK research or evidence, since the first fracking took place in the UK in the 1970s, that suggests house prices would or have been detrimentally affected.”

Cuadrilla has applied for permission to drill at sites on Preston New Road, in Little Plumpton, and Roseacre Wood, near Elswick.