The Conservative-led Government has announced that local authorities will be able to keep 100% of business rates for shale gas schemes that go ahead. Barbara says that increasing the cash incentives for allowing “fracking” for shale gas could undermine public confidence in the planning role of local authorities.
Besides considering whether an applicant has adequate safety and monitoring measures in place for the drilling process for shale gas, councils also have to decide whether a particular site could be operated safely. This is proving to be an issue at Barton Moss where the shale gas drilling site has the M62 motorway on one side and Barton Airfield on the other. The lack of a road suitable to take much heavy goods traffic to and from the site at Barton Moss is also causing many issues for residents and businesses.
“There is still a great deal we do not know about fracking and there are valid concerns as to whether drilling for shale gas is safe and environmentally sound. It is vital that these concerns are addressed by the planning and permitting regime for shale gas exploration or drilling.
“Local councils have an important role to play in the regulatory and monitoring framework on behalf of those communities they represent. It causes a conflict in the council’s regulatory role if they are offered cash for allowing planning permission for shale gas. It is hard to see how local communities can have confidence in the council’s role in planning if there are cash bonuses to the council just for allowing shale gas development to go ahead.
The Conservative-led Government is creating this conflict of interest and rushing headlong at shale gas without considering the community safeguards properly. They have not made any allowances for all the costs that communities are facing, for instance the costs of policing protests about shale gas. At Barton Moss the cost to police the protest site is up to £45,000 per day and the final figure for the initial drilling phase there could be as high as £4-5 million. These costs have to come out of Greater Manchester Police budgets and I have concerns that this will also have an impact on everyday police work in Salford.