A fracking well previously operated by Cuadrilla near Preese Hall in Lancashire

Government report on fracking impact heavily redacted

An internal government document on fracking has been released in a heavily redacted form.

The official analysis – 'Shale Gas: Rural Economy Impacts' – had several key sections obscured when it was published in response to a request under environmental information laws.

Assessments of the impacts on house prices and local services were heavily redacted in the draft report published under the Environmental Information Regulations, prompting Green MP Caroline Lucas to call for the report to be published in full, saying it "adds to the atmosphere of public concern and mistrust" about the effects of the controversial process for extracting shale gas.

"What I'm concerned about is it looks as if the government has got something to hide,” she said. “This is a report that purports to be about looking at the impacts of shale gas exploitation on rural economies and yet huge amounts of it have been redcated. Were it not so serious, it would almost be comical."

The draft internal document was shared by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) with the Environment Agency and considered the potential impact of shale gas development on the rural economy.

The report refers to 2010 findings about the situation in Texas which indicated that properties worth more than $250,000 (£149,000) located within 1,000ft of a well saw their values fall by between 3 and 14 per cent.

Findings from a study of property prices near sour gas wells and flaring oil batteries in Alberta, Canada, found a reduction in house prices of between 4 to 7 per cent within two and a half miles of the wells, although this "may not be comparable in a UK context".

A study of properties near a well pad in Pittsburgh, US, found a 5.6 per cent reduction in house prices within a mile of the gas wells but "impacts relate to houses dependent on well water, which may not be comparable to a UK", the Defra analysis said.

A 2012 study of properties in Pennsylvania, US, found a price rise in homes near a well if the house had a commercially piped water supply, but there is not enough data to "disentangle positive impacts" such as lease payments to homeowners living near wells and higher rental prices from the negative impacts such as noise and pollution.

The document indicates that three further paragraphs about the impact on property prices had been redacted and there were similar cuts made to the published form of the document in its discussion about the impact on local services.

But a government spokeswoman said: "There is no evidence that house prices have been affected in over half a century of oil and gas exploration in the UK or evidence that this would be the case with shale.

"This government believes that shale has a positive part to play in our future energy mix, providing energy security, driving growth and creating jobs."

Lucas's criticism came as a poll commissioned by UK Onshore Oil and Gas found production from shale enjoys widespread backing across the country, with more than three times as many supporting production as opposing.

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