The public inquiry into Cuadrilla’s plans to frack at two sites in the Fylde area of Lancashire has examined the likely economic impacts.
Supporters of the schemes say shale gas will bring significant numbers of jobs. Opponents say it will jeopardise established industries.
DrillOrDrop looks at the evidence presented to the inquiry over the past two days.
“We are forecasting significant jobs”
Paul Hennessy, who works for ATG in Wigan treating fracking flowback water, told the inquiry last night shale gas could create well-paid jobs in the supply chain.
Cuadrilla has estimated that the exploration sites at Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road would create 22 full-time equivalent jobs. This takes into account jobs supplying and servicing the sites.
The drilling service company, PR Marriott, said today if the plans were approved it had budgeted to employ 36 people on the two sites. The company’s senior project manager, Paul Matich, said Marriotts had made that number of staff redundant when the planning applications were refused.
Babs Murphy, the chief executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, couldn’t put a number on job creation. But she said:
“We are forecasting significant jobs will be created in this industry on the basis that this industry will produce gas.”
But other witnesses told the inquiry shale could not successfully co-exist with the Fylde’s main industries of tourism and farming.
“Shale gas will not sit alongside tourism”
Babs Murphy said she was not aware of any evidence that tourism would be affected.
“We have looked at tourism in other parts of the country that could be affected by shale gas and we can’t find it [the evidence]. The claims about industrialisation of the countryside does not fit with the facts that we have.”
But Elaine Smith, a tourism professional, told the inquiry:
“Shale gas will not sit alongside tourism. It would be folly to put shale gas in rural Fylde.”
She said 63m people visited north-west England each year, adding £3.86bn to the local economy and supporting 56,000 jobs. She said up to 18m people visited the Lancashire coast and one in five jobs in Blackpool were in tourism.
This afternoon she crossed swords with James Bream, a research officer for the Chamber of Commerce in Aberdeen, who gave evidence in support of Cuadrilla’s plans. He said tourism and the oil and gas industry in Aberdeen complemented each other.
But Ms Smith said she struggled to see how rural Fylde could be compared with the North Sea. She asked him: “Is it high volume hydraulic fracturing in the North Sea?”
Mr Bream replied: “No.”
Ms Smith: “Do you have a massive water requirement.”
Mr Bream: “We don’t inject water into offshore wells”
Ms Smith: “Do you have massive amounts of waste that needs specialist waste treatment?”
Mr Bream: “There are companies operating in Aberdeen that treat waste. Treatment of waste is not my area of expertise.”
Ms Smith: “Does the drilling take place in the centre of your tourist area?
Mr Bream said people visited Aberdeen but he acknowledged there had not been onshore drilling. He said: “I don’t know what would happen if there was onshore drilling.”
Food and farming
Richard Moore, who comes from a family of established Fylde farmers, said his products might be shunned if fracking came to the area.
“If people won’t buy our products we are lost. This isn’t fair. We didn’t ask for this.”
Jane Barnes, who runs an agricultural engineering business in Wharles, said rural businesses which relied on clean air would suffer from fracking. She added that local farming made a big contribution to the economy and complemented other businesses.
Craig Hughes, the only commercial beekeeper in Lancashire, lives near the proposed Roseacre Wood site. He said bees disliked vibration and could suffer distress if the scheme went ahead.
“It may be that I will be unable to sell my honey. I help farmers, free of charge, pollinate their crops. My business might be stuffed. I may be blacklisted by people who do not want to take my honey”.
He said his other food businesses might suffer and said the “knock-on could be immense”.
“No one is going to buy from me and from an industrial landscape.”
Hayley Smith has a livery stables in Newton which used lanes around the proposed Roseacre Wood site. She said her business would suffer if the scheme went ahead. She told the inquiry horse riding contributed £4.8bn to the national economy.
Barristers for Lancashire County Council and Friends of the Earth, which oppose the schemes, stressed there was no certainty about the economic outcome of a shale gas industry.
The North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce cited a report by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee in support of its case. But as its opponents pointed out, this report said the benefits could not be quantified until after the exploration and appraisal phases.
Ms Murphy, for the chamber, said:
“We have never claimed certainty on jobs but even the most pessimistic reports predicts many thousands of jobs will be created if this industry becomes established.”
But James Bream told the inquiry “don’t take it for granted”. Jobs wouldn’t happen if they weren’t planned for. Based on Aberdeen’s experience, he said Lancashire needed to be business and investor friendly. The industry would need public and private money.
“You can’t credibly attract an industry if you are not supportive of it.”
“No red carpet for Cuadrilla”
Matt Lewin, for Friends of the Earth, said the local authority had refused Cuadrilla’s applications and local people had come to the inquiry to say fracking was not welcome in Lancashire. He said:
“There is no question of the red carpet being rolled out for Cuadrilla.”
So does Lancashire business support fracking?
Outside the inquiry this morning Frack Free Lancashire released the names of more than 300 businesses, community groups and residents in Lancashire who opposed shale gas extraction in the county.
Inside, Babs Murphy told the inspector:
“The vast majority of our members do support the Chamber’s position.”
She said six members had left the Chamber because of its supportive position on fracking and four disagreed with it. Asked whether the remaining members numbering around 1,590 supported shale gas, Ms Murphy said:
“I have no reason to believe otherwise.”
Questioning the evidence
And how does she know that? Ms Murphy said her Chamber and the one in East Lancashire had carried out a joint email survey of members in November 2015. The results found that 72% of respondents said they had an interest in supplying direct to the shale industry and 84% had an interest in serving the supply chain.
But questioned at the inquiry by Maureen Mills she admitted that the chamber had not polled members on their attitudes to shale gas.
Ms Mills, a chamber member who took part in a protest against fracking this morning, asked why not.
Ms Murphy said:
“That is something we wouldn’t usually engage in. We don’t survey for opinion. We survey for research.”
The Chamber’s support for fracking was also questioned by Gail Hodson, a district councillor, who told the inquiry she’d done her own survey of Chamber members. She found that 78% of those who took part had not been questioned by the Chamber about shale gas. 57% said they believed it would have a negative effect on tourism and agriculture and only 8% said it would be positive.
There were also questions about the Chamber’s claim that farmers supported fracking. Estelle Dehon, for Friends of the Earth, asked Ms Murphy how she knew this.
Ms Murphy replied: “I have met with some of them. They have indicated it to me.”
Ms Dehon asked: “How many?” Ms Murphy replied: “Between 15 and 20”.
Updated 22/2/16 to correct number of anti-fracking business from 100 to 300