02 Jun 2017
With the steady emergence of proposals to explore and extract unconventional gas by fracking (hydraulic fracturing), the mainstream UK political parties have set out their positions on this controversial form of development when considering future UK energy supply. With the election campaign back in full flow and the main political parties having all issued their manifestos, each has confirmed their own stance towards the extraction of this source of energy by fracking.
The election promises are made against the backdrop of a changing pattern of energy supply which is seeing the emergence of lower carbon options including solar energy. Reported in the national press at the time, the National Grid has confirmed that 21 April was the first full day of coal-free power in 135 years. This was achieved through the generation of electricity from an increasingly varied range of power options. It reflects the changing face of the UK’s energy supply chain and follows on the heels of reporting in October 2016 that in the preceding six months, the electricity generated by solar panels had outstripped Britain’s ageing coal-fired power stations for the first time. The last Government had aimed to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050 (from the 1990 baseline).
The Conservative manifesto takes a supportive stance towards fracking, whereby:
“The discovery and extraction of shale gas in the United States has been a revolution. Gas prices have fallen, driving growth in the American economy and pushing down prices for consumers.”
"The US has become less reliant on imported foreign energy and is more secure as a result.”
"We will therefore develop the shale industry in Britain.”
“We will only be able to do so if we maintain public confidence in the process, if we uphold our rigorous environmental protections, and if we ensure the proceeds of the wealth generated by shale energy are shared with the communities affected.”
The manifesto also sets out proposed changes to the consenting process:
“We will legislate to change planning law for shale applications. Non-fracking drilling will be treated as permitted development, expert planning functions will be established to support local councils, and when necessary, major shale planning decisions will be made the responsibility of the National Planning Regime.”
In addition, the Tories propose that a new ‘Shale Environment Regulator’ would be set up, taking over responsibility for the fracking-associated roles currently performed by the Health and Safety Executive, the Environment Agency and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
The Labour party in its manifesto undertakes to “ban fracking because it would lock us into an energy infrastructure based on fossil fuels, long after the point in 2030 when the Committee on Climate Change says gas in the UK must sharply decline”.
The Liberal Democrats in their manifesto oppose ‘fracking’ “because of its adverse impact on climate change, the energy mix, and the local environment”.
The Scottish National Party in its manifesto says:
"We have blocked underground coal gasification and a moratorium means fracking cannot take place in Scotland."
The Green Party manifesto states:
"We will introduce a ban on fracking, phase-out the £6bn-a-year fossil fuel subsidies, bring forward the coal phase out date to 2023 (at the latest), divest public funds from the fossil fuel industry, and ensure a just transition for those communities dependent on fossil fuel jobs."
Plaid Cymru makes no specific mention of fracking but in 2015 supported a moratorium.
Meanwhile on the ground, the development of unconventional gas opportunities continues to be challenged through the courts. In a decision in October 2016, the then Communities Secretary Sajid Javid agreed with his Inspector’s recommendations, to allow appeals for the development of exploration facilities for unconventional gas by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) at sites at Roseacre and Wharles on the Fylde, overturning the earlier decisions of Lancashire County Council to refuse planning permission for the exploratory developments. The decision has however been challenged on two occasions, latterly in April this year in the Court of Appeal, where Mr Justice Dove rejected objectors’ judicial review actions. It is understood that papers have again been lodged by an objector with the Court of Appeal to reconsider this decision.
Planning permission for similar development in North Yorkshire was granted in September 2016, for Third Energy to frack at Kirkby Misperton, near Malton. This decision was unsuccessfully judicially reviewed in November last year and the operation is now underway, although not without objectors based locally and at a nearby objector encampment known as the ‘Kirkby Misperton Protection Camp’ blockading the well site in April.
IGas received a resolution to grant planning permission in November 2016 from Nottinghamshire County Council, subject to a Section 106 planning obligation, for an exploratory site at a former MoD site in north Nottinghamshire. Following the decision, Stephen Bowler, CEO of IGas, said:
"We are at a critical juncture in the future of our energy mix and supply, as we move away from coal towards lower carbon sources."
In Scotland, where there is a moratorium on shale gas extraction, it is ironic that INEOS’ first US shipment of shale gas was received at Grangemouth Refinery in October 2016. This is the beginnings of a trade route which is likely to trigger an expansion of Scotland’s largest industrial complex. INEOS has previously obtained fracking exploration licences within the Central Belt, but has so far been blocked from implementation by the Scottish Government moratorium. It is thought that the most populated part of Scotland - the Central Belt - may contain substantial amounts of shale gas, oil and coal bed methane, where exploration could prove to be controversial.
With the snap general election countdown now in its final phase, we wait with great interest to see if unconventional gas firmly becomes an established component of the UK energy supply mix over the term of the next parliament.
Image credit: Daniel Foster
Stephen Morgan-Hyland & Brendan Edwards
19 Jan 2017
Amidst increasing attention on the Northern Powerhouse agenda, Brendan Edwards (economist) and Stephen Morgan-Hyland (spatial planner) of Lichfields Manchester, talk over the concept of the Aviation Powerhouse.
Morgan-Hyland figures that the term ‘Powerhouse’ conjures up an image of combined energy and strength. The blueprint for the Northern Powerhouse is certainly a coalition. It is a united economic voice, working collaboratively to sell the attributes of the Northern Powerhouse to the world to secure a greater share of international investment. It is a brand that allows the North to establish a single identity and compete with a force greater than the sum of its parts.
Credited to former Chancellor and MP for Tatton George Osborne, the over-arching Northern Powerhouse mantra seeks to respond to a longstanding recognition that the North lacks a competitive economic edge. Edwards notes that whilst there is a productivity gap between the Northern Powerhouse and the rest of the UK, there is an opportunity to attract a greater share of domestic and overseas investment. Morgan-Hyland agrees that the objectives are to rebalance the domestic economy and for the Northern Powerhouse to be pivotal in strengthening the fiscal position of the UK, particularly in a post-Brexit world.
Realising the economic benefits that come from a Northern Powerhouse will be dependent on the success of tackling several strategic challenges: inter-connectivity of cities; improved transport infrastructure; strengthened labour market skills; and a transformation of how inward investment is attracted and secured.
Whilst there are challenges it must address, the Northern Powerhouse boasts many strengths. One of these is the Aviation Powerhouse.
The Aviation Powerhouse is a cluster of aviation industry in the North, reaching from Liverpool and Humberside up to Newcastle. Each airport has its own role to play in forming and strengthening this economic cluster. And it’s not just about passengers and cargo. The Aviation Powerhouse extends to all aviation activity, including: business aviation; emergency services; manufacturing and maintenance – as well as its associated training facilities, helicopter operations, military support, and recreational flying.
Figure 1: Aviation Powerhouse airports
The Aviation Powerhouse boasts seven international airports operating some 500 routes and handling 36.8 million passengers. Morgan-Hyland notes that these combined scheduled passenger numbers put the Aviation Powerhouse on a par with some of the busiest airports in the world.
Manchester Airport accounts for nearly two-thirds of scheduled passengers in the Aviation Powerhouse and 85% of the flights to destinations outside of the EU. Newcastle has a transatlantic offer too and the other five airports provide a comprehensive network of EU and UK linkages, including to European global hub airports in Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Madrid and Paris. Manchester also accounts for over 90% of freight by volume, whilst the volume of freight handled at Doncaster/Sheffield is growing rapidly; in 2015 it was over 9-times its 2013 levels.
Figure 2: Aviation Powerhouse Passenger Numbers 2017-2015
Source: Airports Commission, Civil Aviation Authority, Lichfields Think Tank
Figure 3: Aviation Powerhouse Freight (Tonnes) 2013-2015
Source: Civil Aviation Authority, Lichfields Think Tank
Economic role of the Aviation Powerhouse
A key point from Edwards is that the Aviation Powerhouse makes a significant contribution not just to the Northern Powerhouse economy but also to UK plc. In the Northern Powerhouse nearly 20,000 people are directly employed in air transport, supporting services (airport terminals, air traffic control etc.), air cargo handling and warehousing. Significant additional numbers are indirectly employed and the various airports have made important contributions to inward investments.
Employment in the aviation sector has ‘taken off’ in the Northern Powerhouse; it grew by 24.5% between 2009 and 2015. This is well above the sector’s national growth rate of 4%.
Figure 4: Direct Aviation Sector Employment (2015)
Source: ONS (northern regions), Lichfields Think Tank
Morgan-Hyland adds that the Aviation Powerhouse generates numerous additional jobs through its supply chain spending, aviation manufacturing and tourism. For every job in air transport, 2.32 ‘spin-off’ jobs are created in the economy from supply chain contracts and induced spending.
Aviation also helps businesses to grow by improving connectivity to the global economy and facilitating exports. Further growth in freight handling in the Aviation Powerhouse and improved connectivity to Heathrow (part of the Government proposal for handling capacity in the South East) will improve the competitiveness of businesses in the Northern Powerhouse.
Edwards continues that growth in the Aviation Powerhouse offers the potential to help rebalance the UK’s economy. As well as supporting the growth of Northern Powerhouse businesses, the aviation sector is highly productive. Average GVA per employee in UK air transport services is £87,700 – almost double the average in the Northern Powerhouse and higher than the national average. Further employment growth across the Aviation Powerhouse would help to narrow the productivity gap between the Northern Powerhouse and UK.
Figure 5: Gross Value Added per job (2015 prices)
Source: Oxford Economics, Centre for Cities, Lichfields Think Tank
Morgan-Hyland and Edwards agree that there is clear evidence of the economic benefits resulting from recent growth and success of the Aviation Powerhouse. In addition to experiencing considerable employment growth in recent years, aviation is increasing the output and productivity of the Northern Powerhouse. For example, aviation plays an integral role in ‘Just-in-Time’ manufacturing production, by transporting high value and low volume components and personnel. This is particularly important for some of the world’s leading car manufacturers; Ford, Jaguar Land Rover and Nissan are all based in the Northern Powerhouse. In return, these benefits can generate positive secondary aviation impact such as additional business growth, employment, and fiscal benefits locally and nationally including revenue for HM Treasury.
The Aviation Powerhouse has significant potential for future expansion in passenger and freight markets, as well as the business aviation and general aviation markets. It has already experienced significant growth in scheduled traffic in recent years. The Aviation Powerhouse is surely a concept for the Northern Powerhouse and the aviation industry to embrace as it drives growth and helps to rebalance the UK economy.
Brendan Edwards is a Senior Economics Consultant and Stephen Morgan-Hyland a Planning Director, at Lichfields Manchester. For more information about Lichfields' expertise in Aviation, click here.
 Lichfields' research based upon published data from the Aviation Powerhouse airports
 CAA data for scheduled passenger and commercial flights
 ONS, Lichfields Think Tank
 Department for Business Innovation and Skills (2014) Employment Multipliers and Effects by Industry
 Air Transport Action Group (April 2014) Aviation Benefits Beyond Borders