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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
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: Application Developer

£20000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in the centre of Glasgow,...

Recruitment Genius: Production Engineering Manager

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Joinery Shop Foreman

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Joinery Shop Foreman is required to join a p...

Recruitment Genius: Bench Joiner

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Bench Joiner is required to join a privately...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada