'Fracking is not welcome here' - Sheffield MPs give their verdict on controversial shale gas drilling

Fracking is 'not welcome' in Sheffield, one of the city's MPs has declared, while another says any decision should rest with the local authority.

Wednesday, 10th January 2018, 5:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 10th January 2018, 5:50 pm
A fracking rig in the UK

There are currently no public plans to drill for shale gas in Sheffield, but applications have been made to begin exploratory work in neighbouring Rotherham and Derbyshire, and licences are in place across the city, meaning firms could apply to do likewise here.

The Star recently reported how should fracking get the go-ahead in the region, waste water could be sent to an existing treatment plant in Ecclesfield.

Louise Haigh MP

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Huge controversy surrounds the process, in which water and chemicals are blasted deep below ground to release gas, with supporters saying it is needed to meet the nation's energy demands but opponents warning there would be a huge environmental cost.

Sheffield Council has already passed a motion opposing fracking on any council-owned land, and The Star asked the city's MPs for their views.

Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh said: "The licenses the Government has issued, which cover large parts of our city and surrounding countryside, will dismay residents who will be understandably concerned about the safety fears of an industry with a questionable record.

"My message to the chemicals giant INEOS is simple: fracking is not welcome here. That’s why I’ve called for a complete ban and have met representatives of INEOS to make clear the huge community opposition they face and to explain why Sheffield is so unsuitable.

Angela Smith MP

"The fracking zones in Sheffield sit right over a huge urban conurbation, beautiful green space treasured by the community, and two Sites of Special Scientific Interest. It is foolish to even think about fracking here."

Angela Smith, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, has previously spoken about how the shale gas industry could represent an 'exciting' opportunity to boost the demand for steel manufacturing in Sheffield.

Asked whether she supports fracking, she said any applications, should they materialise, would be a matter for the local authority to decide.

"The legislative and regulatory framework is in place and each application therefore has to be decided on its own merits, in the context of whether or not it satisfies decision makers that it is acceptable in planning terms," she said.

Clive Betts MP

"This acceptability includes, crucially, a professional assessment as to whether or not applications meet the standards required by our regulatory framework."

Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts opposes fracking due to what he called the 'major potential impacts, particularly environmental ones, on local communities'.

He claimed the appearance of the wells, the huge amount of traffic that could be generated and the potential health hazards, about which he said too little is known, all meant it was a risk not worth taking.

"The question is do we need it anyway? This would come at a considerable cost, with the massive tax advantages being offered. Wouldn't we be better off putting the money into renewable energy?" he added.

Louise Haigh MP

Mr Betts also criticised the decision by INEOS to ask to bypass local authorities and ask for the Planning Inspectorate to decide upon its applications as 'undemocratic'.

As for INEOS's promise to let local communities share in the profits, he said: "I think most communities will say thanks very much but we would sooner have our community without these environmental impacts, you can keep your money'.

The Star also contacted MPs Paul Blomfield, Gill Furniss and Jared O'Mara, who had not responded.

Angela Smith MP
Clive Betts MP