Fracking has been in the news of late, with Communities Secretary Sajid Javid recently giving the go-ahead for the controversial practice to take place in the county of Lancashire from next year.
This overturned Lancashire council’s decision last year to reject two planning applications from shale company Cuadrilla, citing visual impact and noise as the reasons for the plans being thrown out. Cuadrilla appealed and, in early October, Javid accepted that appeal.
Fracking, which has been heavily criticised by environmentalists, politicians and local opposition groups, is a method of extracting natural gas from shale rock formations, often deep underground.
The process involves drilling down into the earth and directing a water mixture at the rock, which in turn releases the natural gas inside. In essence, water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure, allowing the gas to flow out to the head of the well.
Supporters of fracking say it would help to substantially boost domestic oil production, in turn driving down gas and energy prices. It could also create thousands of jobs and will play a major role in contributing towards the UK’s future energy requirements.
Critics, however, point to the harm fracking can cause to the environment and the possibility that the process could lead to small earthquakes or tremors. There are also worries about pollution and water contamination. Detractors also say that fracking smacks of an energy policy that is still reliant on fossil fuels, when what is needed in the 21st Century is a greater focus on renewable energy to help tackle climate change.
Unsurprisingly, given what the process involves, it seems many people are reluctant to purchase homes close to a fracking site. A recent OnePoll survey, carried out by House Extension Online, found that more than 64% of Brits would be hesitant about buying a property near a fracking site. Some 32%, however, are in favour of fracking if it would mean lower energy bills.
The research surveyed 1,000 people across the UK, asking them if they would ever consider purchasing a house near to a fracking site and whether they were for or against fracking if it helped to reduce the cost of energy bills. When breaking down the 64% who said they’d be reluctant to buy a home near a fracking site, 21% said they were somewhat unlikely and 43% were very unlikely to do so.
On an age basis, 45 to 54 year-olds were most unlikely to purchase a home near a fracking site (68%). Meanwhile, 59% of those aged 18 to 34 would be against it. A higher proportion of women (63%) said they were unlikely to buy a home near a fracking site than men (54%).
While 32% of people said they would be for fracking if it reduced their energy bills, nearly the same percentage (31%) said they were still against fracking even if costs went down.
Over-55s were most in favour of fracking if it meant cheaper energy bills (36%), while 35 to 44 year olds were the age group least in favour (37%). Men were more in favour of fracking if it meant reduced energy bills, with 42% for and 35% against.
It will continue to be a thorny issue over the coming years, with protests, opposition, claims and counter-claims, as well as major debates on the pros and cons of fracking. As an issue that could have a profound effect on housing and where people are willing to live, it is an issue that the property industry will need to monitor closely.
Even those in favour of fracking say it will cause some noise and disruption to local communities, which is likely to make these communities less popular places to live. It will be interesting to see how this plays out now that fracking has been given the green light in the UK. With it being such a divisive topic, expect to hear quite a bit more about fracking as the years go by.
Whether or not it will have a detrimental impact on the property market is impossible to tell at this juncture, but the research above shows that it may well have an effect on house purchasing decisions.