Families Offered Up To £13.000 To Kick Start UK Shale Revolution
Families will be offered five-figure cash payouts under a radical plan to boost the drive for controversial shale gas fracking. The move marks a further dramatic departure by the new Prime Minister from David Cameron’s blueprint for Britain’s energy needs.
The Lottery-style ‘Frackpot’ windfall scheme, to be unveiled by Theresa May tomorrow, involves paying individual householders cash sums – which could be as high as £13,000 – if they are living in areas where the gas can be extracted.
Will your village or town hit paydirt in the great shale bonanza?
The move marks a further dramatic departure by the new Prime Minister from David Cameron’s blueprint for Britain’s energy needs.
Prime Minister Theresa May hopes her bold post-Brexit plan would allow access to Britain’s untapped energy reserve and give a boost to the economy
In just three weeks in Number Ten, Mrs May has scrapped the climate change department, threatened to scupper the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant deal with China and France, and now plans to transform Mr Cameron’s cautious fracking rewards scheme.
Mrs May hopes her bold post-Brexit plan would allow access to Britain’s untapped energy reserve and give a boost to the economy.
But the scheme is likely to prove controversial: environmental critics may argue it is a ‘bribe’ which could undermine local democracy if councillors opposed to fracking find themselves under pressure from voters keen to get their share of the fracking lottery.
Under existing proposals, sums of up to £10million in each affected area were to be taken from business rates paid by fracking firms and given to town halls and community groups.
But the new plan would divert all or some of that money to individuals to ensure, as Mrs May will put it, that ordinary families ‘personally benefit from economic decisions’.
The proposal is the latest evidence of a new boldness by Mrs May as PM in contrast to her steady-as-she-goes tenure as Home Secretary.
It could be a game-changer in the politically explosive energy sector, which could override the green lobby’s fierce opposition to fracking.
Officials refuse to speculate about how much households could receive, saying details have not been worked out. However, in theory, if the entire £10million were divided between households, a town of 10,000 homes could receive £1,000 per home; in a village of 2,000 homes the sum could be as high as £5,000.
In the sleepy village of Balcombe, West Sussex – focus of huge anti-fracking protests – £10million split between its 735 households would result in £13,605 per home.
And if the maximum payments applied to Kirby Misperton in Yorkshire – where the UK’s first fracking in five years is set to take place – it would amount to an astonishing £64,935 per household.
Alternatively, the money could be shared between individual households and community organisations, producing smaller payouts – but still worth thousands in some cases.
In remarks released last night, Mrs May said the initiative was in line with her pledge on entering Downing Street to switch the Government’s focus from the wealthy to the less well-off.
The PM said: ‘As I said on my first night as Prime Minister: when we take the big calls, we’ll think not of the powerful but of you.
This announcement is an example of putting those principles into action – making sure people personally benefit from economic decisions that are taken, not just councils – putting them back in control over their lives.’
The scheme could be widened to provide similar windfalls for families from other local building projects.
‘We’ll be looking at applying this approach to other Government programmes in the future as we build a country that works for everyone,’ said Mrs May.
Shale oil and gas reserves have been detected under huge swathes of the North of England, the Midlands, the South East and South West, though only a small proportion is likely to be accessible to the fracking industry.
If the Government continues to block the £18billion Hinkley Point deal, it urgently needs alternative energy supplies to stop the lights going out in the UK in the decades ahead.
The new move could spark a shale gas rush in the UK as the cash incentives neutralise opposition to fracking from local residents at a stroke.
A massive shale oil programme in the US has seen domestic fuel bills plummet and fears of environmental damage fade.
A drop in energy bills would give a boost to British industry.