Green party fears bribery over plans announced by business minister and Kent MP Michael Fallon to give councils cash boost for allowing fracking
Plans to give councils 100% of business rates from energy companies who set up fracking wells represent a bribe and an attempt to buy off opposition, the Green Party says.
Business minister and Kent MP Michael Fallon said the government wanted local communities to benefit from any shale gas extraction as a French energy company announced it was to invest £12.7million in exploratory drilling in Lincolnshire.
Mr Fallon said it would be irresponsible to ignore the potential from fracking in view of spiralling energy prices but that local communities should benefit.
Business minister and Sevenoaks MP Michael Fallon
"We want local councils and local people to benefit from this exploration," he said.
"We expect 20 to 40 wells to be drilled in exploration over the next couple of years and I think it's very important that local communities see some of the benefit."
Under government proposals, councils that granted drilling licences would receive 100% of business rates paid by energy companies instead of the usual 50%.
"No amount of money could compensate for the damage there may be to local water supplies..." - Green county councillor Martin Whybrow
In addition, councils could benefit by up to £10m per wellhead if shale gas was successful, through a 1% levy on revenues.
But Kent Green county councillor Martin Whybrow said the plan was an attempt to buy off opposition.
He said: "No amount of money could compensate for the damage there may be to local water supplies.
"It does look like a bribe although from what I have seen, I am not sure some councils like KCC need a bribe. There should be no need for any financial incentive."
In a sign the government considers fracking will play an important part in future energy supplies, Prime Minister David 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."
Anti-fracking campaigners at the former Tilmanstone Colliery site
Kent is thought to be an area with potentially significant methane gas.
Last year, Coastal Oil and Energy withdrew its applications for exploratory drills at three sites in east Kent after county planners said they needed more information.
Protesters previously launched anti-fracking campaigns at sites including the former Tilmanstone Colliery.
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