WEST Sussex County Council and the South Downs National Park Authority could be set to make millions following an announcement made by David Cameron.
Councils that give the green-light to ‘fracking’ projects will be allowed to keep millions of pounds more in tax revenue, the Prime Minister has announced.
He said local authorities in England would receive 100 per cent of the business rates collected from shale gas schemes - rather than the usual 50 per cent.
Both the SDNPA and WSCC are the deciding bodies that have the say on applications submitted by Celtique Energie to drill for oil and gas in Fernhurst and Kirdford.
The move is part of an “all out” drive to exploit the controversial pressure mining technique. The Government believes it could generate billions of pounds for the economy, support 74,000 jobs, and lower energy costs.
Mr Cameron said: “A key part of our long-term economic plan to secure Britain’s future is to back businesses with better infrastructure.
“That’s why we’re going all out for shale. It will mean more jobs and opportunities for people, and economic security for our country”.
Environmentalists have accused ministers of trying to “bribe” local authorities. Lawrence Carter of Greenpeace said: “This is a naked attempt by the government to bribe hard pressed councils into accepting fracking in their area.”
A Local Government Association (LGA) spokesman said: “Councils have been clear that the people and communities whose areas host fracking sites must feel the benefit.
“The announcement from the Prime Minister is a step in the right direction, which will mean that business rates paid by shale gas firms will help councils to maintain and improve local services for residents.”
Energy Minister Michael Fallon insisted that the incentive on offer was the same as for other renewable technologies such as wind farms and solar energy.
“We now know that we are sitting on hundreds of millions of cubic feet of shale gas.
“We do not yet know whether we can get it out as effectively as they have got it out in the US. We do not yet know whether it could be a really good reliable source of cheap energy. That is why we do need to explore.
“We expect 20 to 40 wells to be drilled over the next couple of years. We want local people to benefit from that in terms of the jobs and in terms of the extra growth that it will bring.”
See this week’s Observer (out Thursday, January 16) to read our full interview with actress Sarah Miles and what she thinks about fracking.