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Friday, 31 October 2014

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Cash incentive ‘would not affect fracking ruling’ in Cumbria

A CASH incentive offered by the government would not influence a decision over whether fracking would be allowed in Cumbria, say county chiefs.

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CONTROVERSIAL The drilling site at Barton Moss in Greater Manchester on Monday as anti-fracking campaigners protested against plans for exploratory drilling there.

Prime minister David Cameron revealed local authorities would receive all the business rates collected from shale gas schemes, rather than the usual 50 per cent, if drilling got the go-ahead in their boundaries.

Fracking is the process of drilling and injecting water into the ground at a high pressure to fracture shale rocks to release natural gases. Any decision on a fracking application in Cumbria would rest with the county authority, though no applications have been lodged.

But a Cumbria County Council spokesman said: “Any financial incentive being offered to local authorities should not influence decisions on shale gas sites or any other planning applications. We would assess any future application on its individual merits and consider a full range of planning issues, including ecological, environmental, geological, transport and economic matters before making a decision.

“If at the end of a full and fair planning process there is a financial bonus for the council through the government’s new proposal on business rates, then all well and good, but it should not influence the planning decision on whether the application should go ahead in the first place. We believe any major development should factor in the cost to the local authority of assessing an application and fully consulting local people. We work through planning performance agreements, which is a contract between the developer and local authority to ensure major planning projects are properly resourced from the outset.

“To date, we have received no applications for shale oil/gas development in Cumbria. The county’s geology is complex and the British Geological Survey shows there is a narrow band of shale rock across Allerdale and Carlisle districts, and a much larger resource of coal under Cumbria, both deep and shallow, which runs across the northern half of the county and into Scotland and over to the Pennines.

“It therefore seems more likely coal bed methane extraction will occur onshore rather than shale oil/gas extraction.”

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