Compensation planned for communities

Controversy: Fracking has been backed by Chancellor George Osborne in his budget
Controversy: Fracking has been backed by Chancellor George Osborne in his budget

Chancellor George Osborne announced a massive boost for the controversial shale gas industry as part of his budget.

Mr Osborne said the “generous new tax regime” would include a shale gas field allowance and new planning guidance.

He said: “Shale gas is part of the future. And we will make it happen.”

It came as energy minister John Hayes said it was “absolutely right” communities living near fracking sites should receive 
financial incentives.

Parts of both the Garstang and Longridge areas are likely to be affected by fracking operations in Lancashire.

But those opposed to the controversial plans to extract shale gas say communities cannot be bought and that not enough has been done to address safety concerns.

In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, energy minister John Hayes said: “Shale should be safe and secure and the community thoroughly engaged.

“We certainly need to think more about the benefits to communities and I want us to have a whole range of technologies – nuclear, wind, shale – and all will receive benefits as appropriate.”

Critics say his suggestions mirror a proposal made in a letter to the minister from fracking company Cuadrilla.

A Cuadrilla spokesman said: “In the long term, local communities must reap benefits from our activities.

“In consultation with these communities we will develop a community benefit scheme which allows them to share in the success of future production sites.”

Tina Rothery, of Residents Against Fylde Fracking, said: “This has served to energise the anti-fracking movement.

“We are constantly told that the prospect of renewable energy is not feasible because of the tax breaks it requires and yet George Osborne is rolling over backwards to encourage the shale gas industry in this country with tax breaks and a new field allowance, which looks to be a way of ensuring the shale gas companies cannot lose.

“John Hayes adds insult to injury when he imagines communities can be bought.

“At no point do either of these men address the safety concerns we are so gravely worried about.

“All the conversation is about profit and minimising the risk financially with no conversation at all about the risks to a community’s health and wellbeing.”

Concerns have been raised about pollution and small earth tremors linked to the method.