Will George Osborne hail the shale gas in his own backyard?

The Chancellor's Tatton seat is ripe for fracking – but his constituents may not share their MP's enthusiasm for the drill

It is what you might describe as the politician's ultimate Nimby dilemma. On the one hand you represent two of the more beautiful constituencies in England's green and pleasant land – with voters well used to protecting it. On the other you're a firm believer in a technology that could ruin them – turning green fields into gas fields with the added bonus of a minor earthquake or two.

That, The Independent can reveal, is the unfortunate quandary facing the Chancellor George Osborne and the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson. Both have been enthusiastic backers of the Government's "dash for shale gas", which is likely to be confirmed tomorrow when Mr Osborne announces new tax breaks for exploration and an end to the moratorium on potential on-shore gas production.

But a study of maps from the Department of Energy and Climate Change reveals that their constituencies of Tatton and Shropshire North sit right above some of the potentially most lucrative gas fields in England.

If the predictions prove to be right, it means the sound of drilling may soon be competing with birdsong. George Osborne's constituency of Tatton in Cheshire, for example, despite being a safe Tory seat, has form for kicking out errant MPs – famously ejecting Neil Hamilton in favour of the TV journalist Martin Bell in 1997. They also have form for environmental campaigning. A vociferous protest continues against plans to build an adventure playground in Tatton Park. What hope then for Mr Osborne's dream of gas wells scattered around the country, unlocking what he has describes as "the newly discovered shale gas reserves beneath our land"?

Mr Paterson is no more fortunate. Dr Johnson described Shropshire North, home to many rare and protected species of flora and fauna and designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest, as "a region abounding with striking scenes and terrific grandeur". But then, if the Environment Secretary gets his way, that could be replaced with shale gas plants which he once described as "God given". "I do think we should not be frightened of shale gas and not be alarmed, of which a lot of is exaggerated," he has said.

Mark Menzies, the Conservative MP for Fylde in Lancashire, has an early experience of the potential local backlash against fracking, after drilling by the shale gas company Cuadrilla caused two small earthquakes in his constituency near Blackpool. He has been inundated with objections from residents and has raised those on several occasions in the Commons. Mr Menzies said it was vital for stronger independent regulation and transparency before any further licences were handed out. "We are not like the United States with vast swathes of uninhabited land," he said. "I think the only way that fracking can be done in Britain is on a very small scale." So what will Mssrs Osborne and Paterson do? Mr Paterson remains unrepentant. He said the potential drilling site was very close to his home in the constituency and with the appropriate environmental safeguards he was happy for it to go ahead. "This is an exciting, totally new opportunity to bring wealth and development to rural communities," he said yesterday. "But importantly the quality of environmental regulation stays the same."

However whether his constituents agree is another matter.

Greenpeace sound like they are relishing the men's potential discomfort. "It will be interesting to see whether George Osborne's rush for shale gas exploration in the English countryside causes a backlash from his own constituents in Tatton, when they learn fracking rigs could be erected in their backyard," said Leila Deen, an energy campaigner at the environmental group.

"I suspect there are a number of MPs with rural constituencies from all the political parties who are feeling very apprehensive about Osborne's gamble with gas."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas