Resort could welcome gas jobs potential

A shale gas site at Preese Hall Farm, Weeton
A shale gas site at Preese Hall Farm, Weeton
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Blackpool’s council leader said he could not rule out supporting fracking because of the jobs it could bring to the resort.

Coun Simon Blackburn made the comments as Preston bids to position itself as “frack friendly”.

Its councillors were due to consider a report today which recommends the city bids to become home to the industry’s administrative headquarters, subject to fracking companies adhering to rigorous safety measures.

And Coun Blackburn said while he would not savour the prospect of drilling within the town’s urban boundaries, Blackpool could put itself forward as a base for servicing the industry.

Coun Blackburn said: “My starting point for this is that employment is a problem in Blackpool, and as the leader of the authority I have to think very carefully before I say no to any new jobs.

“Bringing the fracking regulator here, for example, is well within the bounds of reason, but if they are thinking about drilling on the beach, that is a different matter.”

Coun Blackburn added from a personal point of view he was not opposed to fracking, which is the process of injecting liquid into the ground at high pressure to release gas from shale rocks, but he added: “I am aware lots of people, including my own constituents and members of the Labour group, are very concerned about it.

“A conversation needs to take place about whether the residents of Blackpool are comfortable about fracking. Before any policy decisions are taken, there needs to be that debate.”

Rob Green, head of enterprise and investment at the Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Economic Development Company, which is part of Blackpool Council, is a supporter of fracking.

In a letter to The Gazette, also signed by a number of Fylde companies, he said he could see “the clear benefits that shale development can deliver to the Fylde, including creating jobs, generating economic growth and boosting tax revenues.” Preston’s environmental scrutiny panel has spent 12 months considering the potential benefits and risks of fracking.

Members have met with operator Cuadrilla, protest groups including Ribble Estuary Against Fracking, and made a site visit to a drilling site at Elswick.

They have recommended the council “cautiously accepts the industry so long as operators comply with all regulations and risk management processes”, and that it promotes the city “as a potential regional and/or national administrative base for operators within the industry.”

They also recommend an independent review is carried out of the economic development potential of the shale gas industry. Cuadrilla is planning potential exploration in Clifton and last month announced plans to explore sites at Wharles and farmland near Little Plumpton.