THE region’s council leader would back fracking in Chester and the wider borough.
Speaking to the Leader, Cheshire West and Chester Council leader Mike Jones said the process of fracking to extract shale gas reserves from underneath the ground could help provide a major boost to industry and communities in the area.
Cllr Jones’ comments were in response to a statement from Prime Minister David Cameron last week, who said the government was “going all out for shale”. He also said cash incentives of about £1.7m would be made available to councils who allowed drilling, through receipt of 100 per cent of business rates accrued through the drilling scheme.
The process of fracking has become controversial due to its technique of injected water, sand and chemicals into beds of shale in order to displace it.
Critics of the method have said it poses the risk of contaminating water supplies and, due to the displacement of earth, creates the possibility of tremors.
Cllr Jones said, provided the health and safety and environmental issues surrounding fracking were satisfied, he would be in favour of fracking in the borough believing it could provide a “huge economic boost” to the area and help to safeguard jobs.
“I believe the process of fracking is safe and could be of huge benefit to this borough,” said Cllr Jones.
“As long as the appropriate health and safety and environmental issues have been looked into and satisfied, I would be in favour of drilling for shale gas in the borough.
“Given the Prime Minister has said 100 per cent of business rates will be pledged to local authorities and one per cent of revenues will be made available to communities where drilling is taking place, I think communities in Chester and across the borough would benefit greatly from shale gas.
“We have employers here in the borough, such as Essar, Quinn Glass and General Motors, who we have fought very hard to keep in the area, would all benefit from shale gas.
“It would allow them to grow their businesses and, in turn, create more jobs in Cheshire West and Chester, and that can only be a good thing.”
Possible sites in Blacon East, Ince Marshes and Upton Grange are being investigated by energy companies for their shale gas potential, with an application for exploratory bore hole drilling in Upton by the energy firm Dart Energy currently being considered in a bid to test for coalbed methane.
Cllr Jones added: “There are vast amounts of shale gas under our feet and the next stage will be for firms to drill exploratory wells to work out which areas are the most viable for extraction.
“You only have to look at how successful the extraction of shale gas has been in the US, which is one of the most litigious countries in the world, and how it has boosted their economy to see the benefits we could have over here.
“I appreciate some communities are concerned about fracking but I do believe that has been down to scaremongering and people not being in possession of the facts.
“Whatever happens, we need to ensure any communities that may be affected receive their fair share of the revenues that are created as a result of fracking.”