INDIVIDUAL households will be given cash payments potentially running into thousands of pounds in recompense for fracking in their area, under new plans announced by Theresa May.
A £1 billion shale wealth fund unveiled by former chancellor George Osborne in November will set aside up to 10% of the tax proceeds from fracking to benefit the communities hosting wells.
But now the Prime Minister is amending the scheme so the money can go direct to residents rather than being given to councils or community trusts to spend, as Mr Osborne planned.
In May, North Yorkshire County Council approved plans to use the controversial mining method in Ryedale.
The decision to allow the proposal to go ahead at a site near Kirby Misperton was a huge shot in the arm for the energy industry’s and the Government’s attempts to get a UK fracking industry off the ground.
It is expected that the new Fund could deliver as much as £10 million to each community where wells are sited. Downing Street declined to estimate how much payouts could be worth, but it is thought that individual households could receive between £5,000 and £20,000.
However, campaigners Frack Free Ryedale have today appealed to communities in North Yorkshire to oppose the fund plans.
Sue Gough, who lives near the controversial proposed Third Energy fracking site in Kirby Misperton, near Malton, said: “People need to know that by accepting this money they are selling their communities down the river and condemning them to industrialisation and ruination by the frackers, who have no respect for our environment, our livelihoods or health.”
The change could go some way to countering resident resistance to fracking, but is likely to be characterised by critics as a “bribe” to householders which could divert cash away from community priorities like infrastructure or skills training.
Speaking ahead of the launch of a consultation on the Fund, Mrs May said she wanted to make sure that individuals benefit personally from economic decisions.
And indicated that the model could be applied to other Government programmes, such as the Community Infrastructure Levy charge on property development in England and Wales.
“The Government I lead will be always be driven by the interests of the many - ordinary families for whom life is harder than many people in politics realise,” said Mrs May.
“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. It’s about making sure people personally benefit from economic decisions that are taken - not just councils - and putting them back in control over their lives.
“We’ll be looking at applying this approach to other Government programmes in the future too, as we press on with the work of building a country that works for everyone”.
Under Mrs May’s changes, the option of giving money direct to residents will have to be considered when decisions are made on how to share proceeds from the Shale Wealth Fund, though cash could still go to councils to fund community improvements.
A British Geological Survey (BGS) study of shale gas across the north of England estimated total reserves of 1,300 trillion cubic feet - the equivalent of more than 500 years of UK gas consumption at current levels.
The Government is seeking comments on its proposals for a Shale Wealth Fund and will publish its response to the consultation later this year.