Greater Manchester major shale gas region announces presumption against fracking


Anti-fracking march through Manchester, 12 Novembr 2016. Photo: DrillorDrop

Greater Manchester announced a policy this morning which would have the effect of blocking fracking across one of the UK’s major shale gas regions.


Andy Burnham at an anti-fracking rally in Manchester in November 2016. Photo: DrillOrDrop

The mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said there would be a presumption against fracking across 10 local authorities.

The onshore oil and gas industry said he had “fundamentally misunderstood the role of gas”.

Mr Burnham has described the policy as bold and radical. In a speech at the launch of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, he confirmed the new policy:

“proposes a deadline of 2028 for all new development here to be zero-carbon and the new Greater Manchester-wide policy of opposition to fracking.”

He tweeted:

“We [have] a full commitment to renewable energy and not clinging on to processes that hark back to a past.”

“Time to stop clinging to the past. Let’s leave it in the ground, embrace a zero-carbon future & make GM [Greater Manchester] the UK’s leading green city region.”

On Friday, Mr Burnham told the Guardian about his concerns over earth tremors caused during recent fracking at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site near Blackpool:

“For the legal limits to be breached so regularly is a worry, isn’t it? It’s hard to know what damage is being done and the effect that is having on groundwater and all of those other issues that emerge,” he said.

“It’s even more worrying in Greater Manchester, which is a much more urban place, where there is more contaminated land, more mine shafts. This is an industry which hasn’t proven its case. In fact, the opposite.”

The Greater Manchester region does not have the power to ban fracking. But Mr Burnham said:

“We are doing what we can within the legal structures that we have got at our disposal.”

190107 greater manchester spatial framework launch

Launch of the Greater Manchester spatial framework with a presumption against fracking, 7 January 2019. Still from webcast

The presumption against fracking was announced at a meeting of Mr Burnham and the region’s 10 local authority leaders from Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan.

Virtually all of Greater Manchester is described by the British Geological Survey as a shale gas prospective area.

190107 greater manchester shale gas region

Prospective shale gas area in blue. Map: UKOGL

More than half the region is currently licensed for oil and gas exploration. Only Oldham, Stockport and Thameside have no licences within their boundaries.

There are a total of 10 exploration licences, five of which were granted in 2016, in the the most recent 14th round.

The licences are held by some of the biggest names in UK exploration, including Ineos and Cuadrilla.

190107 greater manchester shale gas region3

Greater Manchester region (bordered in red) with exploration licences in grey. Map: UKOGL

In the introduction, the spatial framework said:

 “The plan sets out proposals to support the Greater Manchester ambition to be a carbon neutral city-region by 2038. A key element of this is to require all new development to be net zero carbon by 2028 and to keep fossil fuels in the ground. At this time therefore Greater Manchester authorities will not support fracking.”

In a section on sustainable development (policy GM-S 1), it said:

“Greater Manchester seeks to promote investment in new zero-carbon technologies, to reduce the reliance on carbon-based fuels to accelerate the speed at which such new technologies become financially viable and/or technically feasible. It is therefore considered prudent to not exploit new sources of hydrocarbons and keep fossil fuels in the ground so at this point in time Greater Manchester will not support hydraulic fracturing (fracking).”

“Fundamental misunderstanding of the role of gas”

The presumption against fracking was criticised by the onshore industry. Ken Cronin, chief executive of UK Onshore Oil and Gas, the industry representative organisation, said:

“It is disappointing to see the Mayor of Greater Manchester once again reiterate his stance against new skilled jobs and investment in the North West, especially as his remarks show a fundamental misunderstanding of the role gas has in both his region and the wider UK.

“93.5% of Greater Manchester households are connected to the gas grid, relying on it to heat their homes and to cook with. Nationally, 84% of homes are heated with gas and this vital fuel provides around 40% of our annual electricity demand. Since the early 1970s, UK oil and gas production has generated over £328 billion in UK tax revenues. In neighbouring Lancashire, shale gas development has already generated over 70 jobs, £11 million of local investment and over half a million in community funds.

“Every major forecast says that we’ll still need gas into the 2050s. If we don’t develop our own homegrown resource, nearly three quarters of our supply will be imported by 2035, which will be environmentally more impactful than producing it here in the UK. This means offshoring our environmental responsibilities and economic benefits to countries like Qatar and Russia.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said:

“Shale gas has the potential to be an important new domestic energy source, enhancing our energy security and delivering economic benefits including the creation of well paid, quality jobs.”




21 replies »

  1. One cannot criticise Andy Burnham for carrying out the pledges he was elected upon. He made it very clear prior to election that he would do everything in his power to stop fracking. And as for the comments from UKOOG, the government’s own study has concluded the economic benefits of fracking have been hugely over exaggerated plus shale gas is still an unproven resource. I personally hope other local authorities and Mayors will follow suit. The government has pushed fracking at every opportunity and often behaved in a very undemocratic way. Fracking is not compatible with tackling climate change, despite industry claims and developing a shale gas industry is not the right way forward if the U.K. is serious about our commitment to the Paris Agreement and developing a sustainable low carbon future.

  2. The mayor does not have the power to ban fracking. So, like the London mayor, more empty gesturing.

    Mind you, he was associated with a history of “presuming” water was being supplied within a hospital, so “presuming” hospitals remain heated seems about right. Maybe, if shale gas does develop, he will “presume” to refuse the financial benefits that may be handed out by Central Government?

    • But he doesn’t say he has the power to ban it, nor does the article make that claim. It does however highlight that the Greater Manchester will have a presumption against fracking in regards to planning applications. Effectively meaning that all applications will be unlikely to be passed at the initial application stage and will require taking to appeal and possibly call in by the SoS to get approval. Thus extending the process and the cost.

      With .Govs proposed planning reforms designed to ease fracking sites through the planning process going down faster than a lead balloon with Tory MPs things don’t look to rosy in for the frackers at this time.

      Good on you Mr Burnham.

  3. That is exactly the status quo, crembrule-“taking to appeal”. So, no, not extending the process and the cost, and of course costs can be recovered at appeal.

    However, what would be interesting is if a few test wells start to produce good, economic output of gas. Easy to make gestures when they are empty, not so easy to support them if and when they start to have direct, localised costs and maybe creating an economic disadvantage compared to other locations. That would not be too rosy.

    • Yes McFly I am sure that’s exactly what the planning consultants like Arup et al tell the fracking companies when pitching for work – “ Yes of course Mr ( insert O&G numpty of choice here) we will put in a pointless, inaccurate and locally unpopular application that will be refused locally and will require that we appeal, get refused by the HMPI and will ultimately require your chum the SoS to call in. “

  4. The presumption needs to be against unconventional oil and gas, rather than simply fracking.One has to be aware of the sneaky definition of fracking imposed by this government, which makes it possible for companies to claim they are not fracking due to the volume of water being used. And acidising (with various names spouted out by the industry, e.g. acid wash…is it a wash or a fracturing?) is another threat, and I’m not sure about the reported use of nitrogen gas. A major concern is the high levels of faulting in the UK geology versus the USA. Any action that seeks to ‘loosen’ the shale to allow the oil/gas to flow is in danger of creating seismic events underground, and hence the propagation of gases and fluids into the faults and further afield, with no ability to control it.

    • And it’s disappointing that the industry yet again fails to address the reasons why so many people are against unconventional oil and gas, and just concentrates on ‘the money’.

  5. Around two thirds are NOT against, Malcolm, and the last data shows those that are against are declining (numerically!)

    So, disappointing for the minority but not for the majority. Same as many items within life.

    However, when some are suggesting that selenium is at high levels reference certain sites, and the industry addresses that and explains it isn’t, it seems quite easy to forget where and how and why the “reasons” are produced and ignore that the industry still addressed it.

      • Ken Cronin with his futile Qatar and Russia nonsense. Hilarious and very desperate. We export more gas than we import in LNG from Qatar and the Government tells us that our Russian gas imports are ‘negligible’

        • Could someone at UKOOG pass this link to Ken so he gets an understanding of the basics on UK oil and gas.

          It is a current Government report and explains about our North sea production, our lucrative export market, and our imports from Norway.

          Click to access Gas.pdf

          • The fast spreading news that Greater Manchester oppose fracking will be of great concern for the UK shale gas start up companies. Without the support of local Councils and the local population the industry cannot survive. Excellent timing.

      • Ohh, but I do see when my “line” is causing concern Pavlova, when the response is so fact free. So, keep on showing the left back is getting the run around and I will continue with what works.

        Your 5.10 little effort ignores the control upon that, at some stage, that is open. Nobody noticed? Oh yes they did.

      • funny that, the most recent BEIS figures say that twice the number of people surveyed (33%) were anti-fracking than were for it.(16%) the rest didn’t understand it, but given the misinformation that’s out there, mostly from the industry, that’s no surprise

        • I can only think that Martin is adding the 16% in favour of fracking to the 51% who don’t understand it, as you say.
          Creative accounting!

            • No apologies needed Fifi, it’s Foggy that should apologise for wheeling out this threadbare tired old trope every few weeks purely in an attempt to antagonise. It’s all very silly.

              Interestingly he is in good ( or should that be bad company) as it’s similar to the figure fudging attempted by Claire Perry in the HoC recently. Birds of a feather and all that.

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