The UK government has awarded a further 27 fracking licenses despite the widespread public opposition

Nearly 30 new fracking licences awarded

Shale exploration companies will be able to start exploratory fracking at 27 sites across northern England and the Midlands following the latest licensing round. 

The new potential fracking sites include areas near Nottingham, Sheffield, Lincoln and Preston. A further 132 areas, including parts of the West Country and the south coast as well the North East and North West, are set to be awarded subject to further environmental assessment and conditions to protect wildlife and habitats.

"As part of our long-term plan to build a more resilient economy, create jobs and deliver secure energy supplies, we continue to back our onshore oil and gas industry and the safe development of shale gas in the UK,” said Energy minister Lord Bourne said.

"This is why the OGA (Oil and Gas Authority) has moved quickly to confirm the winners of licence blocks which do not need further environmental assessment,” he said, adding the fracking industry will play an important part in keeping the UK’s lights on.

Companies which have been successful in securing the 27 licence areas that do not require further assessment have been told they will formally be offered those licences later this year.

Some 132 areas included in the latest - 14th - onshore oil and gas licensing round needed further assessment over potential impacts to protected nature sites, with proposals for licence conditions put out for consultation.

Companies will be offered the licences for those areas subject to the outcome of the consultation, and all the licences will be granted after terms and conditions have been finalised, the OGA said.

"With almost 100 applications received, the 14th onshore round has attracted significant interest and high-quality proposed work programmes from a range of oil and gas companies,” said OGA chief executive Andy Samuel.

"Today's announcement regarding the offer of 27 blocks gives those successful companies assurance about the blocks that they will be formally offered later in the year."

In total, around 2,700 square kilometres of England is covered by the licences that have been confirmed, with a further 13,200 square kilometres subject to consultation.

No new licence areas are being awarded in Wales or Scotland in this licensing round, the Government said.

Environmental groups were critical of the announcement.

"It seems clear that the Government is responding to the vigorous lobbying from the fracking companies by ignoring both the economic and environmental evidence that clean, renewable energy is a far better bet for investment and the planet,” said Greenpeace spokeswoman Daisy Sands.

Among those companies which have won the 27 licences is also energy firm Cuadrilla, whose application to frack in Lancashire was rejected earlier this year. The firm will now explore two further areas between Barnsley and Doncaster and another for an area between York and Bridlington.

Ineos, whose plans for shale gas exploration in Scotland have so far been thwarted by a moratorium in the country, has won two blocks to the east of Sheffield and one south west of Mansfield.

The most successful company was IGas, which has secured seven areas to the north east of Sheffield, the north east of Barnsley and around Lincoln.

The licences announcement comes after the Government revealed measures to fast-track planning applications for fracking, with ministers able to step in and take over decision-making from local councils on any application.

The move to overrule local opposition of fracking prompted furious disapproval from campaigners who claimed it rode "rough shod over democracy".

Ministers hope development of onshore gas supplies in the UK will boost jobs and the economy, bring down energy prices and make the country less reliant on foreign imports.

However, opponents fear the process of extracting gas by hydraulic fracturing - or fracking - causes earthquakes, can pollute water supplies, could lead to inappropriate development in the countryside, damage house prices and cause more climate emissions.

The latest Government polling shows public support for fracking slipping away, with just a fifth of people backing the extraction of shale gas for use in the UK, the lowest level since the Department of Energy first polled people on the issue in December 2013.


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