High Court ruling could pave the way for nascent shale gas industry

05 Mar 2014 | 01:17 pm | 1 min. read

All eyes in the UK's nascent shale gas industry will be on Manchester High Court this Thursday (6 March) as landowners take legal action to remove protestors from an access road serving a key exploratory drilling site at Barton Moss.

Landowners Peel Group have asked the Court to grant a possession order which would allow it to remove anti-fracking protesters from the access road.

Property litigation specialist at Pinsent Masons, Stuart Wortley, says:

“Shale gas could be a game changer in the UK, providing a valuable new resource that could drive down the cost of energy and revolutionise the energy industry. Exploration works such as those at Barton Moss are critical if there is an opportunity for shale to be a success in the UK.

“Matters have escalated since last summer and culminated in high profile protest action which has been expensive to police. There will always be a balance to be struck between public interest and localism as the UK seeks to diversify its energy mix, but the message must be clear that there are appropriate channels for raising objections and illegal actions will not be tolerated.

"The protesters are clearly trespassing on private land and so have no defence to the claim. Accordingly, obtaining the order for possession should be a formality and we are hopeful that this will be swiftly implemented and the protesters evicted.”

The hearing next week follows announcements of a number of fiscal and regulatory measures introduced by government designed to support the burgeoning shale gas industry as the UK seeks to tackle dwindling domestic energy supply.

Last July HM Treasury announced a cut on tax on a portion of the income generated by shale gas from 62% to 30% as well as launching a generous community benefits package for residents living near to potential sites. In December the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) published the ‘Shale Gas Roadmap’ which outlined the permits required by developers to carry out the method of extraction in the UK.

Pinsent Masons says that transparency of process and genuine communication with local residents will be significant factors in determining the future of shale gas production in the UK.

Wortley comments: “Unlike other energy resources in the UK, shale gas is a new and relatively unknown quantity, triggering much concern. It is indeed an unfortunate consequence of any new industry that it can find itself facing unwanted third protest activity.”

 

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