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Energy companies bid for fracking licences

Fracking licences will be handed out for the first time in six years following a bidding process that starts today.

Companies who win a licence will still need planning permission and environmental permits to extract shale gas via fracking, which the government says “has the potential to provide us with greater energy security, jobs and growth”.

About half of the UK is potentially free to be licensed for fracking, including parts of National Parks, although these only in “exceptional circumstances and in the public interest” following a tightening of the regulations.

Communities minister Lord Ahmad said: “Proposals for such development must recognise the importance of these sites,” which also include world heritage sites and areas of outstanding natural beauty.

There is widespread public opposition and concern about fracking, and there have been protests in areas affected, although the industry says concerns about its safety and on water contamination and misplaced as long as the activity is properly regulated.

There are government incentives in place to encourage fracking, from tax breaks to revenue-share schemes with communities where it is taking place.

Shale gas is ‘cleaner’ than coal, but it not a completely clean nor renewable energy source – burning it still pumps carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.

Areas expected to generate particular interest are the Bowland basin in northern England, central Scotland, and the Weald in the south-east.

Greenpeace’s Louise Hutchins, said: “The government has fired the starting gun on a reckless race for shale that could see fracking rigs go up across the British countryside, including in sensitive areas such as those covering major aquifers. Eric Pickles's supposed veto power over drilling in national parks will do nothing to quell the disquiet of fracking opponents across Britain.”

Green MP Caroline Lucas said: “Many campaigners have campaigned for decades to get national park status, and they are given for a reason. The idea that they could be offered up to the fracking firms is a scandal.”

But Simon Walker, director-general of the Institute of Directors, said: “There's still a way to go before the industry really takes off, but opening up a new licensing round while increasing safeguards for the natural environment is welcome evidence of the government's commitment to maximising the benefits of a British shale industry.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email

(Image: Dale G. Young / AP PA)


Cllr S Duckett   28/07/2014 at 19:28

Our district is largely on shifting sand beds, with water supply under-neigh. The thought that the frackers could be let loose on us by a County Council who will only see the pound signs not the danger, scares the hell out of me.

Andy   29/07/2014 at 13:50

Since CO2 is plant food I'm more worried about cutting down trees, getting rid of hedgerows and concreting over green spaces than burning gas as a driver of CO2 in the atmosphere.

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