Fracking could hit UK house prices, health and tourism

Government report released under Freedom of Information rules reveals widespread concerns over shale gas industry

Protesters rallied outside Parliament yesterday as MPs debated fracking (Pic: Friends of the Earth UK/Twitter)

Protesters rallied outside Parliament yesterday as MPs debated fracking (Pic: Friends of the Earth UK/Twitter)

By Ed King

Drilling for shale gas could wipe 7% from house prices, pollute the environment and affect local residents’ health, a secret UK government report has found.

The official assessment of the impacts of fracking – which the government was forced to release under Freedom of Information rules – delivers a damning verdict on the sectors impacts.

Based on analysis in the US where fracking is common, it said there could be “potentially be a range of zero to seven per cent reductions in property values within one mile of an extraction site”.

The risk of explosions meant properties within a five mile radius could face higher insurance premiums.

Other risks included leaks from sites polluting water supplies and affecting human health, although it said UK rules on the composition of wells were likely to be more robust than the US.

Report: UK political consensus on fracking for gas disintegrates 

Domestic gas production would likely reduce UK emissions linked with imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG), but if those supplies were used elsewhere this would see global emissions rise.

Agriculture, tourism, fishing and other outdoor pursuits could also be affected as a result of in the industrialisation of the countryside.

“Shale gas development may transform a previously pristine and quiet natural region, bringing increased industrialization,” it said.

The report – entitled Shale Gas Rural Economy Impacts – was heavily censored when it was first released last year, with 63 chunks of text missing.

But a ruling dated June 8 from the UK informational commissioner ordered the department of environment to issue a full version, saying it was in the public interest.

Government officials were at pains to stress the study was an “early draft of an internal document” and “not analytically robust”

“It includes early, often vague, assumptions which are not supported by appropriate evidence,” they added.

Green NGOs said the findings were more proof that the shale gas lobby and ministers had lied about the potential negative effects of fracking.

“Sneaking out this study late on the day of the Davies Commission [UK airport] announcement is further proof, if needed, of how desperate ministers are to bury evidence of fracking’s potential impacts on our communities and the environment,” said Greenpeace UK energy and climate campaigner Daisy Sands.

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