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Fracking firms invited to drill under half of the UK: Government map reveals sites from Devon to Aberdeen

under consideration
South Coast, the Midlands and most of Yorkshire earmarked More than 40 per cent of Britain will be opened up for fracking Drilling in Balcombe, West Sussex, sparked protests this summer
By Ben Spencer PUBLISHED: 01:48, 18 December 2013 | UPDATED: 11:32, 18 December 2013

More than 40 per cent of Britain is to be opened up for fracking as the hunt for shale gas gathers pace. A new map reveals the huge swathes of the country where energy firms will be invited to drill. Stretching from Devon to Aberdeen, the map, published yesterday by the Government, shows the extent of the new areas under consideration for exploratory work. These include much of the South Coast, the Midlands and most of Yorkshire.

Fracking has already proved to be hugely controversial, sparking protests in Balcombe in West Sussex when exploratory drilling began this summer. Green groups opposed to the technology said the announcement cast a dark shadow over the communities where fracking could take place. But Energy Minister Michael Fallon said the energy reserves had the potential to transform Britains economy. A new licensing round will start next summer, with companies expected to be granted up to 150 exploratory licences. The new map reveals 39,000 square miles of land to be considered for exploration, covering 42 per cent of the country. At the moment companies have licences to drill in 7,300 square miles, mostly in Lancashire, Sussex, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. Mr Fallon said: Today marks the next step in unlocking the potential of shale gas in our energy mix. It is an exciting prospect, which could bring growth, jobs and energy security.

Protests: Fracking has already proved to be controversial, sparking protests in Balcom be in West Sussex

An independent environmental assessment of the new industry, also published yesterday, said fracking could create up to 32,000 jobs and plough 1billion into communities where drilling takes place. But it found that each well would create a significant local impact. Each fracking site could see as many as 51 lorry movements a day for up to three years, said private firm Amec, which produced the report for the Government. Thats the equivalent of one lorry weighing at least three and a half tons, every five minutes of the working day for nearly three years. The report says that this level of activity could have an adverse impact on traffic congestion, noise or air quality depending on existing conditions. The report also found that new technology would require 9million cubic metres of water a year, increasing industrial water use by 18 per cent. Up to 2,880 wells would be drilled, the report estimates, producing up to 8.6trillion cubic feet of gas over 20 years enough to meet British demand for three years. Communities where planning permission is granted will get a 100,000 one-off fee and 1 per cent of revenues throughout the lifetime of the wells, divided between parish and county councils.

Support: Designer Vivian Westw ood gave her support to the protestors at the fracking site this sum m er

Mr Fallon, a Conservative, pledged that local councils would have the final say as to whether drilling goes ahead. And the Government expects that up to 7,700 square miles, only a fifth of the land under consideration, may be explored for fracking. But he claimed shale gas could significantly reduce household bills. Green groups say fracking will devastate local environments and prolong reliance on fossil fuels. Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Tony Bosworth said: These plans cast a dark shadow over many communities across Britain who could now face the threat of fracking in their backyard. Greenpeace energy campaigner Anna Jones said: Michael Fallon is desperate to put a positive spin on this report, but what it actually shows is that the Government wants to open two-thirds of England up to fracking, with all the associated risks. Keith Taylor, Green MEP for south-east England, said: The Government is ramping up their profracking rhetoric ahead of issuing the next round of licences but campaigners and concerned residents wont be tricked into believing the hype.

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