Union paves way to back fracking

A fracking protester
A fracking protester

WIGANERS “should take a considered view” of proposed fracking operations in the borough, according to a leading workers’ union.

GMB secretary Gary Smith said the nation’s energy future relies on gas “as the only show in town”, highlighting that fracking could create thousands of jobs.

Several licences are already held by energy giants allowing them unrivalled access to areas in the borough subject to planning permission.

Mr Smith said: “One way or another gas is the only show in town.

“We have to face the fact that the UK will be reliant on gas for decades to come, 80 per cent of homes are heated by gas.

“Citizens need to take a considered view of shale exploration, facing the realities of our long term need for gas.

“The challenge is whether we can build an environmentally sensitive industry, serving the needs of the country, whilst generating thousands of well-paid unionised jobs.”

A report commissioned by industry experts UK Onshore Operators Group (UKOOG) this week claimed fracking could generate £33bn in investment and create 64,000 new jobs.

UKOOG chief executive Ken Cronin said: “We are building an industry in this country which will not only potentially give the UK energy security but will also bring immense benefits to other industries and create sustainable, well-paid jobs.”

Anti-fracking campaigner Stephen Hall, a member of group Frack Free Wigan and Leigh, said: “Fracking is not going to bring energy prices down.

“The government would be better off investing in renewable energy projects.”

The Government recently announced plans to remove a legal block to companies drilling under private land.

Mr Hall added: “They are doing everything they can to stop local people from showing their opposition to planning applications.”

Mr Smith - whose union has more than 600,000 members - added: “We can build on the fact that the gas industry already supports hundreds of thousands of jobs in the UK.

“Britain is a world leader in terms of skills and safety. We have a responsibility to maintain that global position as well as the jobs and skills that go with it.

“GMB will not support a deregulated, wild west of an industry. Some of the behaviour we’ve have seen around shale in America is disgraceful and must be resisted.

“We want to ensure that real, skilled jobs are created in the energy sector.”

To date, Wigan Council is yet to receive a planning application for fracking operations in the borough.