MPs and councillors have joined forces to call for the Fylde coast to get a large share of the spoils if fracking goes ahead here.
As reported in The Gazette yesterday, Prime Minster David Cameron announced councils would be allowed to keep 100 per cent of business rates from shale gas schemes, with Energy Minister Michael Fallon adding local authorities could also benefit by up to £10m per wellhead if extraction is successful.
But a cross-party letter signed by Fylde coast and Lancashire MPs, as well as leaders of Fylde Council, Wyre Council and Lancashire County Council, has called for further financial benefits for the areas most likely to be affected by the controversial process.
Fleetwood MP Eric Ollerenshaw, who is one of the letter’s signatories, said: “What we’re trying to show is that if this industry is to take off in Lancashire the money has got to go to the right places.
“The Government, to be fair, has now offered some more than the first offer which is great.
“But one of our arguments is that we’re going to give business rates to local councils, which is fine, but what is to stop a Secretary of State saying in future that Lancashire has got this money so they don’t need any more from things such as housing grants.
“What we want is something statutory otherwise (the money currently being offered) could simply be taken back by not giving us extra grants.
“We still think we need more and that has got to be additional and guaranteed, so we still get the chance to apply for housing grants and regeneration grants.
“It’s a bureaucratic argument, but one which is quite critical at this stage of the game.”
Campaigners have accused the Government’s cash incentives of being a “bribe” for planning authorities to give the go ahead to fracking.
But a spokesman for Fylde Council confirmed: “Our view is the granting of planning permission (for fracking) is not contingent upon us getting more money.
“If fracking is to get the green light we want our communities to benefit as much as possible.
“The letter we sent was in response to (the Government’s) proposals and it was made explicit that we would want more money for the benefit of the communities which have shale gas wells.
“This was only in the event that shale gas is extracted and would be subject to all the necessary safety regulations being in place.
“Safety for our communities is paramount and we are not allowed in law to let money determine any planning applications.”
Fylde MP Mark Menzies declined to sign the letter.
He said: “I have always raised any issues I have with the shale gas industry personally with the Prime Minister.
“The points I wish to raise on behalf of people in Fylde may not be the same as those which people from other areas see as important so I will continue to represent their interests directly.
“The announcement by the Prime Minister this week confirms what I had already received assurances over, which is that any money which comes from potential shale gas extraction goes to those communities neighbouring any drill sites.”
Anti-fracking campaigners are fearful of the potential affects on the local environment of shale gas extraction by way of hydraulic fracturing – or ‘fracking’ – whereby water and chemicals are blasted deep underground to free the shale gas.
The concerns include potential water pollution, and earth tremors.