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Fracking incentives 'could lead to conflicts of interest'

Friends of the Earth spokesperson Jane Thomas says allowing councils to keep 100% of the business rates related to fracking could lead to conflicts of interests when planning applications are being considered.

Anti-fracking protesters surround a lorry at the Cuadrilla exploratory drilling site in Balcombe in September. Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire/Press Association Images

She said: "This latest Government move highlights the depth of local opposition to fracking and the desperate lengths ministers are prepared to go to overcome it.

"People are right to be concerned about the impact of shale gas extraction on their communities - especially as experts say it won't lead to cheaper fuel bills.

"This move raises potentially serious concerns about conflicts of interest, if councils that benefit from this money are also the ones who decide on planning applications from fracking firms in the first place."

She added: "The Government should be encouraging the development of Britain's huge renewable power potential, instead of coming up with new incentives that keep the nation hooked on climate-changing fossil fuels."

More: What is fracking?

Shale gas 'has economic benefits nationally and locally'

Guy Newey, head of environment and energy at think tank Policy Exchange, says shale gas will help both regional and national economies.

Energy firm Total has secured two exploration licences for this site in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire. Credit: ITV News/Emma Wright

He said: “Shale has huge potential in the UK, both in terms of keeping energy bills down and replacing the lost tax revenues from declining North Sea fields.

"Incentivising communities to accept infrastructure projects in the UK, whether new homes or power stations, is notoriously difficult."

He added: "Ensuring both councils and people living near shale wells benefit directly in the spoils should help smooth the planning process. This will help the economy both at a national and importantly a local level.”

More: What is fracking?

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Anti-fracking protesters arrive in Gainsborough

Anti-fracking protesters have arrived in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire ahead of David Cameron's visit later today.

Anti-fracking protesters are voicing their opposition in Gainsborough. Credit: ITV News/Emma Wright

The Prime Minister will visit the site following the announcement that England councils that approve fracking projects will be able to keep 100% of the related business rates.

Today energy firm Total confirmed it had spent £30m on two exploration licences for the Lincolnshire town.

More: What is fracking?

Anti-fracking protests disrupted Balcombe drilling

Exploration drilling was disrupted by anti-fracking demonstrations at Balcombe, West Sussex in August last year.

Among those arrested during the disruption was Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.

Protesters and police outside the Balcombe site in September 2013. Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Protesters remained at the site until the energy firm Cuadrilla finished its test drilling in October.

Read more: Cuadrilla chief: 'We will complete our work'

More: What is fracking?

David Cameron: Fracking will bring community benefits

Communities living near fracking sites will receive cash benefits from drilling, the Government has said. The announcement comes as it was confirmed that councils in England who approve fracking projects will be able to keep 100% of the related business rates.

In a statement, the industry confirmed it will further consult on how money can best be shared with the local community, with options including direct cash payments to people living near the site, plus the setting up of local funds directly managed by local communities.

Read more: Fracking explained

PM: Fracking taxes will create tens of thousands of jobs

David Cameron has tweeted that plans to allow councils to keep 100 percent of business rates from fracking are part of the Government's "long term economic plan" and will create tens of thousands of jobs.

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Allowing councils to keep 100% of business rates from fracking is part of our #LongTermEconomicPlan, creating tens of thousands of jobs.

Read more: What is fracking?

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Green party: Better insulation the answer, not fracking

Natalie Bennett
Focusing on insulation instead of gas would help solve Britain's energy crisis, Natalie Bennett said. Credit: Daybreak/ITV

If every home in the UK "that needed it" was properly insulated, bills would be cut and jobs would be created, the leader of the Green party told Daybreak.

Natalie Bennett dismissed Government proposals to boost fracking and instead championed better insulation of homes as a means of cutting energy bills and creating jobs.

"If we insulated every home in Britain that needed it, we would create up to 200,000 jobs. What we would also do is cut our carbon emissions and slash bills, take nine out of 10 people out of fuel poverty.

"Six million people in Britain are now in fuel poverty. We have got to tackle that. We are not going to tackle that with gas, which is the expensive, high-cost and volatile future."

Minister: Fracking 'only allowed if absolutely safe'

business secretary
There is a lot more shale gas under Britain's surface than previously thought, Michael Fallon said. Credit: Daybreak/ITV

Total's plans to explore Britain for shale gas is "extremely important" as it shows "one of the world's Big Five oil companies" sees a lot of opportunity in the UK, according to a business minister.

Read more: Greenpeace slam Total plans for fracking in the UK

Michael Fallon told Daybreak any go-ahead for fracking in Britain would be "regulated properly" and "would only be allowed if absolutely safe".

He continued: "The announcement by Total this morning is extremely important. It shows that one of the world's Big Five oil companies now sees the opportunity to explore for shale gas here.

"We know now there is a lot more shale gas down there than previously thought and there is a huge opportunity to go down there and get it."

Read more: Tax boost for 'fracking' councils

Councils welcome fracking tax boost plans

The Local Government Association said the Prime Minister's proposals to allow councils to keep all of the cash brought in by business rates from fracking schemes was "a step in the right direction".

A spokesman for the councils' group said:

Councils have been clear that the people and communities whose areas host fracking sites must feel the benefit.

Today's 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.

While it is encouraging that government is listening, local areas will be keen to hear more details on how the community benefits package will be strengthened to fairly renumerate those who will be most affected.

– A Local Government Association spokesman
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