FURIOUS anti-fracking campaigners hit out after prime minister David Cameron promised millions of pounds more in tax revenue to councils giving the green light to shale gas schemes.
Campaigners at Fernhurst, where a plan for exploratory drilling has been submitted to the South Downs National Park Authority, said the ‘carrot’ was clearly intended to create a ‘conflict of interest’ for mineral planning authorities already struggling with financial cuts.
And at Kirdford and Wisborough Green where another plan is due to be debated by West Sussex County Council, protesters slammed the ‘dishonest and anti-democracic’ government claiming it was not the prime minister’s job to ‘sell off our land to the highest bidder for short term alleged gain.’
Earlier this week the prime minister said local authorities would receive 100 per cent of the business rates collected from shale gas schemes – rather than the usual 50 per cent.
The move is part of an ‘all out’ drive to exploit the controversial pressure mining technique, which the government believes could generate billions of pounds for the economy, support 74,000 jobs, and lower energy costs.
Whitehall officials have said the business rates commitment would mean mineral planning authorities hanging on to up to £1.7m extra a year from each fracking site.
They stressed that the mining industry had already pledged to give communities £100,000 for each test drilling – and a further one per cent of the revenues if shale gas is discovered.
But leading campaigner for Frack Free Fernhurst, Martyn Knights told the Observer: “The amounts suggested are unlikely to even cover the additional costs in maintaining road infrastructure, likely to be hit badly by HGV traffic if fracking becomes a reality, let alone much else. The government has offered nothing to recompense the people who will suffer the most – those who live, work and take recreation nearest to the fracking activity. There are other costs not yet weighed in the balance, for example the provision of new water treatment facilities or the expanded quarrying operations to provide the thousands of tons of stone to build well pads”
The Keep Kirdford and Wisborough Green group (KKWG) said: “We are disappointed to read of Mr Cameron’s so called long term ‘bribery and corruption’ plans to sell an unpopular UK fracking policy to foreign investors that will cause irreversible damage to this country.
“We question how councils can operate in a safe manner and project an unbiased interest if this dishonest and anti-democratic government are aiming to sweeten the deal with backhanders.
“Should any disasters occur it will be the British tax payer who will end up paying the financial consequences and the general public having to live in fear of the dangers unleashed on the environment.”
A public meeting to discuss Celtique Energie’s exploration plan has been organised by Kirdford and Wisborough Green parish councils for Friday, January 31 at 7pm in Wisborough Green village hall with guest speaker, MP Nick Herbert.
Spaces are limited, with only residents listed on the electoral roll able to attend.
Admittance is free but it will be one ticket per house on a first come, first served basis.
To register, telephone the parish clerks.