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Communities could be "cheated" out of shale gas compensation

Communities could be "cheated" out of shale gas compensation
Communities that are facing a boom in the number of shale gas projects could be "cheated" out of compensation.

Recent studies have found that trillions of cubic feet of the resource are untapped under some rural areas of the UK - particularly in the north-west of England.

However, extracting shale gas from under the ground involves a controversial procedure known as fracking, where explosions are set off to release the substance from rocks. Although there has been much scientific debate, a conclusion has not been reached on whether this technique causes earthquakes - as some environmental lobbyists allege.

Projects are expected to cause disruption to rural areas - with more heavy goods vehicles needing to use roads not built for their heavier loads.

But a draft community incentives paper currently under consideration by Whitehall could mean compensation from shale gas exploration firms is given to county councils as opposed to individual homeowners.

This is according to a source close to those involved in talks with the government, who talked to

It is feared that giving the compensation to county councils as opposed to homeowners may not result in direct benefits for those affected by disruption - especially considering many local authorities are facing huge budget cuts.

Doug Parr, one of Greenpeace's chief scientists, told the website: "There are legitimate reasons why people who are local to the development need to have a voice and be able to thrash out what the benefits should be.

"It doesn't seem fair that it's given to a large local authority who plan a swimming pool in a town 15 miles away rather than giving something back to the community who are putting up with it."

Levels of opposition to shale gas exploration in rural areas are high and the announcement that councils and not residents will get compensation may force legal action from pressure groups.

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Posted by Francesca Witney