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."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
people

Actress isn't a fan of Ed Miliband

Arts and Entertainment
Rooney Mara plays a white Tiger Lily in forthcoming film Pan
filmFirst look at Rooney Mara in Pan
Life and Style
health

Do you qualify – and how do you get it?

News
Food blogger and Guardian writer Jack Monroe with her young son
people
News
i100
News
Privately schooled, Oxford educated and a former editor of arguably the world's poshest magazine 'The Lady', it's perhaps unsurprising that Rachel Johnson rarely mixes with ordinary Proles.
people

The Mayor of London's sister, Rachel Johnson, apologises for shocking tweet about the PM

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

Langley James : IT Support, Bradford £16k - £22k

£16000 - £22000 per annum + Benefits: Langley James : IT Support, Bradford £16...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager / Invoice Finance £75k OTE

£40000 - £50000 per annum + £75,000 OTE Car+Mobile : h2 Recruit Ltd: Business ...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager-Managed Services-£80,000 OTE

£45000 - £80000 per annum + £80,000 OTE + Car,benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Busine...

Langley James : IT Sales Executive;Borehamwood;£40k(neg) uncapped comm£100k+OTE

£40000 per annum + £100k+ OTE: Langley James : IT Sales Executive; connectivit...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital