Council leader declares fracking companies ‘more than welcome’ in the Fens with money raised for community benefit

The College of West Anglia Engineering Apprenticeship Awards. Cllr Alan Melton.

The College of West Anglia Engineering Apprenticeship Awards. Cllr Alan Melton. - Credit: Archant

Fracking companies would be “more than welcome” in the Fens if substantial reserves of shale gas were discovered, a council leader has claimed.

What is fracking?

What is fracking? - Credit: Archant

Alan Melton, leader of Fenland District Council, said gas could be accessed well away from communities in the “sparse” region and the prime minister’s plan to give extra tax revenues to authorities that give projects the green light could see money for infrastructure and capital projects pumped into the area.

He said that the money raised through fracking for the council would be “ploughed straight back into the community”.

“Companies wanting to come and explore would be more than welcome as far as I am concerned.”

“The only concern that I would have is that the road infrastructure around the Fens would need improving,” he said.

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“Let’s be realistic about it. We are all totally dependent on fuel imports for our supplies from volatile countries.

“North Sea oil is running out. The burning of coal is unacceptable, wind turbines are unreliable. We need flexibility of supply.

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“We have got to look at future generations. The only other alternative is nuclear fuel. “I’ve always been a great believer of a ‘mixed bag’ energy supply – wind, oil, wave.”

But his positive reaction to the news will put him at odds with green campaigners who claim the government is “bribing” authorities to give the go-ahead to the controversial energy source, by offering them money to boost the coffers.

David Cameron has bullishly declared “we’re going all out for shale,” pledging to allow councils who give projects the green-light millions of pounds more in tax revenues.

With a recently published Department for Energy and Climate Change map showing that much of the top half of Norfolk, and parts of the Fens, could be sitting on shale, some councils in our region may have to weigh up this offer.

But environmentalists criticised the business rates incentive as a “bribe” to reluctant local authorities.

And they warned that it raised serious concerns over conflicts of interest if the councils benefiting from the money were the ones deciding on planning applications.

Opponents fear fracking, a process in which liquid is pumped deep underground at high pressure to fracture rock and release the gas in it, will lead to the development of industrial sites and disturbance in the countryside.

Eastern region Green Rupert Read, said it was a “disgrace” that councils were being offered tax revenues while renewable energy was being “starved of cash”.

The Prime Minister said local authorities in England would receive 100pc of the business rates collected from shale gas schemes – rather than the usual 50pc. The Government believes it could generate billions of pounds for the economy, support 74,000 jobs, and lower energy costs.

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