TAX breaks for shale gas extraction companies could mean Wigan borough will play host to fracking sites sooner rather than later.
Geological surveys have shown that considerable more reserves of valuable natural gas lie underneath large areas of the North of England.
And energy companies already hold licences that allow them rights to start extracting in areas of the North West, including parts of the borough.
Chancellor George Osbourne said this week: “We want to create the right conditions for industry to explore and unlock that potential in a way that allows communities to share in the benefits.
“I want Britain to be a leader of the shale gas revolution because it has the potential to create thousands of jobs and keep energy bills low for millions of people.”
If just 10 per cent of the gas estimated to be under the North of England is extracted, it would be enough to supply the country for 25 years, experts claim.
But the government’s readiness to issue a green light to extraction plans have been heavily criticised by environmental groups. The process of fracking – which involves firing water and chemicals at high pressure into shale rock formations – has significant side effects, they argue.
Andrew Pendleton of Friends of the Earth said: “Promising tax hand-outs to polluting energy firms that threaten our communities and environment, when everyone else is being told to tighten their belts, is a disgrace.
“Ministers should be encouraging investors to develop the nation’s huge renewable energy potential. This would create tens of thousands of jobs and wean the nation off its increasingly expensive fossil fuel dependency.”
Anti-fracking groups state that the process can lead to earthquakes, affect house prices and contaminate the water supply.
Ministers have already announced that areas where fracking takes place would be entitled to financial incentives to fund community projects.
Although several energy companies hold licences for extraction areas in the North West, it is understood that local authorities would still have to approve planning permission applications.
Dr Chris Green, a world-renowned fracking expert, based in Wigan, said the region had “an unbelievable opportunity” to exploit its natural reserves of shale gas, creating “thousands” of jobs.