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North Preston MP Ben Wallace joins Lancashire leaders in shale gas warning

Posted on - 20th January, 2014 - 9:00am | Author - | Posted in - Business, News, Politics
Cuadrilla has been exploring shale gas options in Lancashire

Cuadrilla has been exploring shale gas options in Lancashire

A Preston MP is one of a number of political figures calling on the Prime Minister to ensure local communities get a pay back from any fracking.

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Swathes of Lancashire, including land to the West and North of Preston, are on the shortlist to be fracked in the exploration for producing energy from shale gas.

Ben Wallace, MP for Preston North and the Wyre, has co-signed a letter to David Cameron which requests 10% of all fracking profits to be pumped back into supporting local communities.

The Tory MP has co-signed alongside the likes of Lancashire County Council leader Jennifer Mein, in a threat to the PM that they will come out fighting if the terms are not right.

They describe shale gas as having the chance to “give us a second industrial revolution”.

The full letter states:

“There has been much debate and many meetings surrounding the issue of Shale Gas exploration in the last 12 months.

“You will be well aware that across the country public opinion is yet to be persuaded as to the benefits of this new industry. Communities where licences have been granted feel that they have no ownership over the Shale Gas and that the policy will be imposed over their concerns.

“We welcome the initial steps towards giving communities a share of some of the proceeds of fracking but this doesn’t go nearly far enough. We also are pleased that by offering a rebate in business rates the Treasury has recognised the link between the communities and gas revenues in a hypothecated way.

“As Lancashire politicians we are acutely aware of our county’s rich heritage. Industry runs in our veins. We represent proud and hard working people who have for centuries contributed not only to the wealth of the country but to its politics as well. We therefore do not eye fracking with some hysterical suspicion.

“We look at it in a pragmatic way. Where our constituents’ concerns can be mitigated and if we collectively feel some direct benefits we will not to stand in the way. Indeed many of us will become champions of the industry. Shale Gas has the potential to give us a second industrial revolution and to re-balance Britain’s economic output.

“Successive Governments have stated their desire to close the North / South divide but it remains questionable as to how much has been delivered.

“Shale Gas gives you the once in a generation chance to put actions to the words. A series poor of communication initiatives from the Shale Gas companies is in danger of hardening opposition. At the same time Treasury plans eventually to levy heavy taxes on production revenues risk pitching local government against Whitehall, unnecessarily.

“We reject the so-called voluntary arrangements decided, without local consultation, between the industry and Government. These do not go far enough in incentivising support. By contrast the Governments eventual planned tax take of 62% from Pad revenues risks the perception that the community won’t get to share in the benefits of Lancashire’s assets.

“Time is running out for Shale Gas. The window of opportunity to influence public opinion is beginning to close. It is vital that we resolve the issue of community benefits soon. The Local Government Association (LGA) in August submitted a report seeking 10% of revenues from Shale Gas production to be retained by local communities in order to secure real strategic and additional advantage for the area.

“We think that this is a fair 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.”

Preston City Council had a council motion from December 2012 to refuse all fracking requests on council land, or any requests for support on fracking.

Cuadrilla, one of the firms exploring shale gas, has been running test sites near Blackpool.

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