Fracking plans to be judged on merits

Derbyshire could be opened up for fracking after French energy giant Total announced its intention to drill for shale gas in the East Midlands.

The firm said it is to plough £30 million into shale gas exploration in the region after a Government report named Derbyshire as ‘under consideration’ for fracking.

Derbyshire County Council (DCC) said that although areas in the north of the county had already been identified as possible drilling sites, it was ‘much too early’ to say if the county would be affected.

Last week PM David Cameron announced that authorities would be able to keep all business rates paid by shale gas operators.

The Government wants to open up the country for fracking which it says will support 74,000 jobs and reduce energy bills.

A spokesman for the county council said: “We have no formal policy on fracking as there are currently no proposals.

“We have received no applications and if we did we would judge each on its own merits.”

Fracking triggered controversy in the UK after one firm set off minor earth tremors when drilling near Blackpool.

Environmentalists are concerned that the offer of payments represents a conflict of interest for cash-starved councils and say that tax breaks given to the exploration companies should be invested in renewable energy.