Fracking could hit house prices by 7%

Fracking protest

Fracking operations to extract shale gas could knock 7% off the value of nearby homes, according to a report that the government appeared to try and keep secret.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) released part of the report, Shale Gas Economy Impacts, last year - but with 63 passages blacked out.

The full version has now been published only after an order by data watchdog the Information Commissioner's Office.

And, the blacked-out portions reveal, house prices within a mile of fracking sites are likely to fall by 7%. This is roughly in line with a survey of estate agents earlier this year which revealed that they expected prices to drop by a tenth.

Houses within five miles could face increased insurance costs, thanks to the danger of explosions, and will be much less nice places to live.

"Some residents may experience deafening noise; light pollution that affects sleeping patterns," it warns. "Noxious odours from venting gases can also impact on air quality for local residents." it adds.

There's also a danger, it warns, of the sort of leakage of waste fluids that has happened in the US. Even if this doesn't directly affect drinking water, it says, there would still be a risk to human health through the consumption of contaminated food.

And the report points to the dangers of increased industrialisation: "Rural community businesses that rely on clean air, land, water, and/or a tranquil environment may suffer losses from this change such as agriculture, tourism, organic farming, hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation," it says.

Defra is doing its best to dismiss the report's findings, saying it's only a draft internal discussion paper and isn't to be relied upon.

"It does not contain any new data or evidence, and many of the conclusions amount to unsubstantiated conjecture, which do not represent the views of officials or ministers," it says.

The report follows a decision last week by Lancashire councillors to deny Cuadrilla permission to frack there. It had been considering delaying its decision until after ther report was published in full.

And Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Tony Bosworth says that Defra's reluctance to publish the full report is telling.

"No wonder Defra sat on this explosive report until after the Lancashire decisions – it shows that people living close to rural fracking sites could see the value of their homes fall by up to 7% and their insurance costs rise," he says.

"Instead of hiding information and trying to force through fracking, the UK government should follow the lead of Wales and Scotland and put fracking on hold."

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The people who affect house prices
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Fracking could hit house prices by 7%

They have the power to push a price higher, depending on how many other people are in the running for a home and how liberal they want to be with the truth to the buyers. In some cases, they can also do more harm than good by initially overvaluing a property. The worst case scenario is the home eventually sells for less than it would have done had it been priced realistically in the first place.

Sometimes a quick-moving solicitor can be the difference between getting the home at the price you want and getting into a bidding war or missing out entirely. If the buyer needs a quick sale, they're more likely to do a deal with someone who has a flexible solicitor who can push through the sale so it suits them.

Research by Halifax concluded that anti-social neighbours could take £31,000 off the price of an average home. If you’re selling, you should declare any problems you’ve had on a Seller’s Property Information Form, otherwise you could face a claim later on.

While an increase in Council Tax might not be too much of a deterrent to a potential buyer, plans to grant permission for new homes, a mobile phone mast or wind turbines could knock an asking price down. If you're a buyer, the local council should have details of any future planning applications and you can search them for a small fee.

A lot of traffic in an area obviously has an effect on air quality. Since 1997 each local authority in the UK has carried out studies of the air quality in its area. If an area falls below a national benchmark for air quality, it has to be declared an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA). Some residents of the Llandaff area of Cardiff expressed concern that it had become an AQMA due to an increase in traffic in the area. Whether this becomes a widespread issue remains to be seen.

Mortgage availability is a key driver of property prices. If no-one can take out a mortgage, then prices will stall and eventually fall. We've seen this happen in parts of the UK in recent years, as lenders tightened up their criteria following the credit crunch. Conversely, good mortgage availability will mean more people are competing for properties - to a seller's advantage if their home is desirable.

An outstanding local school can add around 8% to the value of a home, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. On the flipside, a not so good Ofsted report can take off a similar amount. If you’re concerned about a school’s performance, one way to get involved is to become a governor.

Initiatives such as the Help To Buy scheme have been credited with pushing house prices up. A buoyant economy with strong employment gives people the confidence to buy and leads to an upward shift in house prices, while rises in unemployment have the reverse effect. Planning restrictions, at both a national and local government level, affect the number of homes in a particular area.

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