A GROUP of leading business experts have backed plans to explore shale gas reserves that could lead to fracking operations in Wigan.
In an open letter, the North West Energy Task Force (NWETF) has said “responsible development of natural gas” would provide a major boost for local economies.
Almost a fifth of Wigan constituency area is subject to onshore Petroleum Exploration and Development licences.
This means energy companies could start exploratory operations to extract shale gas subject to planning permission.
The letter, signed by a host of North West economic experts, reads: “We welcome the news that the UK economy is in recovery and growing again.
“But it is hard not to remain concerned about the Committee on Climate Change’s warning that energy intensive industries have been placed at a competitive disadvantage by the US shale revolution.”
It adds that development of Lancashire’s shale could “boost tax revenues for much-needed investment in public services.”
And also “generate sustainable export-led economic growth, based on a thriving, competitive private sector and create thousands of jobs.”
Potential fracking operations in Wigan have sparked opposition that the area’s mining history could pose an environmental threat.
Hydraulic fracturing – known as fracking – involves firing water and chemicals into underground shale rock formations to release natural gas reserves.
Cuadrilla, the energy firm currently undertaking exploratory works on the Fylde coast hold a licence that covers areas to the north of Wigan borough.
NWETF’s Prof Robert Rothschild of Lancaster University said: “As an economist, I am confident that this new energy resource has the potential to strengthen substantially the industrial base of North West England.”
Wigan Council has not received any applications for gas exploration linked to fracking to date.
All drilling operations will be subject to approval from the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency.
Opposition group Frack Free Wigan and Leigh was formed this year to campaign against the controversial process coming to the area.