A fracking company has been accused of offering local people bribes of 6 per cent of its revenues if they agree to drilling under their homes.
Jim Ratcliffe, the chairman of the chemicals firm Ineos, said that the offer meant landowners and communities could get £2.5billion over the next twenty years.
Landowners would receive 4 per cent of the profit from fracking – a method of extracting natural gas from underground rock by blasting it with water, sand and chemicals – while 2 per cent would go to local projects such as parks or hospitals.
A test drilling site for shale gas near Banks on the outskirts of Southport
It means communities within a 38-square-mile drilling area with 200 wells could receive £375million before tax during the 15 to 20-year lifetime of the wells.
Mr Ratcliffe said: ‘It means the rewards are fairly shared by everyone. It’s what they do in the US and it is right to do this here. It democratises the shale gas revolution.’
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Campaigners, who say fracking pollutes and causes earthquakes, condemned the offer, which comes days after ministers agreed a proposed law change so oil and gas firms will not need owners’ permission to drill 300 metres under their properties.
Campaigners say fracking pollutes and causes earthquakes. Sir Mick Jagger’s ex-wife Bianca attends an anti-fracking protest in Westminster
An exploratory fracking site at Balcombe in Sussex, the site of a protest last year
Simon Clydesdale, of Greenpeace, said: ‘With one hand the fracking industry goads the Government into steamrolling people’s right to oppose fracking under their homes, with the other it offers bribes.
‘People have legitimate concerns about fracking that won’t be easily assuaged by cash sweeteners. The fact that the shale lobby can’t win the argument on safety but has to buy up consensus will help convince people that nothing good will come from letting the frackers through the door.’
Sharing of shale gas profits is common in the US where around 20,000 wells were drilled last year.
American landowners have become wealthy selling rights to drill under their homes but in Britain the Crown owns rights to minerals under private land.