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Licences poised to be granted

Chambers boss urges fracking or see UK become ‘living museum’

FrackingBritish Chambers of Commerce leader John Longworth has urged the government to allow fracking or risk seeing the country become a “living museum like Greece”.

In a move that will put him on a collision course with anti-fracking campaigners, the director general said it was in the national interest to develop a shale gas industry.

The Government is expected to announce the winners of a new wave of licences across Britain as early as this week, according to a Sunday newspaper.

But business leaders say more needs to be done to relax planning constraints if Britain is to make the most of fracking.

In an attack on ‘nimbyism’, Mr Longworth, tells the Mail on Sunday that improvements to national infrastructure need to be addressed.

“It is useless trying to solve problems in the sector unless we resolve planning. There has to be an over-ride in the national interest or we will end up a living museum like Greece.”

The Department of Energy and Climate Change is expected to grant licences in two tranches, fast-tracking applicants with proposals that require less environmental assessment.

This latest development follows the publication of letters between Scottish ministers and Cluff Natural Resources showing the company lobbied the Government one day after the moratorium on unconventional oil and gas applications was announced earlier this year. It is now considering taking its plans under the Forth to get around the planning restrictions.

Jim Ratcliffe, the chief executive and chairman of Ineos, which runs the Grangemouth plant, has suggested an onshore shale gas industry could be set up in Scotland within a few years, in spite of any ban imposed by the government.

Mr Ratcliffe, told the Herald newspaper: “[The Scottish Government] are being quite clear. What they’ve said to us is they’re not against fracking. But what they do need to do is get comfortable with whether they’re happy with the risks of fracking in Scotland.

“We don’t need to do any fracking for the next couple of years. What we’d like to do is just drill a couple of holes, do the seismic, and just find out what’s down there.”

Ineos wants eventually to establish a large-scale shale gas industry, having acquired fracking exploration licences across 700 square miles of central Scotland.

It has invested in an ethane supply project at Grangemouth that will allow the firm to import, store and use cheap shale gas from the US, with hopes of establishing an indigenous supply in future.

The Scottish Government announced a moratorium on fracking last year amid growing environmental and safety concerns.

It will be in place while a full public consultation is carried out alongside further research into the technique to look at planning, environmental regulation and the impact on public health.

The Scottish government stated last week: “No fracking can or will take place in Scotland while the moratorium we have announced remains in place, a policy that has received wide support from both environmental groups and industry.

“We are taking a careful, considered and evidence-based approach to unconventional oil and gas, and the moratorium and the planned public consultation will allow all stakeholders and local communities to have their say.”

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One Comment to Chambers boss urges fracking or see UK become ‘living museum’

  1. Alan Tootill says:

    Mr Longworth’s comments will not put him on a collision course with the anti-fracking movement, his car has already crashed, it will only increase their resolve. His comments are not only economically naive – it beggars belief that he should pin the future’s hopes on a temporary dirty energy fix – but politically naive.

    The argument about fracking is not now solely based on the technical merits or demerits of the process, it has extended to a wider appreciation of how political influence is achieved and exerted in this country, and how democracy is perceived to be under assault from a government determined to pursue fracking at any cost. There is genuine concern, and some anger, about how big business can attempt, and be supported by the government, to impose unwelcome outdated and dirty energy processes on local communities. They have genuine concerns about the impact of fracking, boosted almost daily by new evidence emerging of health and environmental impacts from the US. The public do not trust the government, they do not trust the industry. And for a business leader to come out and arrogantly accuse people of being nimbys and to call for local planning to be taken out of the hands of local people is only likely to cause the further downfall of fracking in this country.

    More importantly than Mr Longworth’s political myopia, if he were to look at the real and potentially massive opportunities in energy, in renewables, solar power, wind and tidal energy technology, he would perhaps realise that’s where the real British economic and business interests lie for the future.

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