Published on The Guardian website on 18th August 2015
Large areas of Yorkshire, north-west and east Midlands earmarked for oil and gas exploration as government announces it will offer licences for 27 new sites
Large areas of Yorkshire, the north-west and the east Midlands are to be opened up to fracking after the government announced it will offer a fresh round of licences for oil and gas exploration.
Areas near Leeds, Sheffield, Lincoln and Nottingham are to be offered to companies in an expansion plan that green groups predicted would trigger “hundreds of battles” over the future of the countryside.
Ineos, the Anglo-Swiss chemicals group that wants to lead the UK’s shale gas industry, was awarded three licences and said the latest ones could pave the way for gas to be pumped by 2020.
“If the planning system works as well as we hope, we should have meaningful production of shale gas in the UK by the end of the decade,” said Patrick Erwin, commercial director at Ineos.
The 2,700 sq km (1,040 sq miles) of land in 27 blocks of 10km x 10km will not be formally offered until a second much larger tranche, covering areas in the north-east, the West Country and the Isle of Wight believed to be ecologically sensitive, have been assessed under environmental measures.
The applications are subject to approval by local councils, which will have 16 weeks to decide on them. The government promised last week to step in if councils fail to keep to the deadline. The new guidance has given the secretary of state for communities, Greg Clark, the power to “call in” and fast track a ruling if deemed necessary.
Initial analysis by Greenpeace indicated the areas covered by the announcementwill affect the constituencies of high-profile MPs including former Labour leader Ed Miliband, party leadership candidate Yvette Cooper, the education secretary, Nicky Morgan, and the shadow energy and climate minister Caroline Flint.
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