IT’S often said there are three things that affect the value of a property: “Location, location, location.”
Buying a house is one of the biggest decisions we make and most of us want to live in the best house and in the nicest area we can afford – whether that’s cosmopolitan Leeds, or the rural idyll of somewhere like Reeth with its panoramic views across the northern Dales.
As with any big investment there’s always an element of risk involved which is why prospective house buyers call upon professional help to quantify this risk.
We’re able to find out about the potential flood risk of an area, and whether major developments such as a new road or railway line are in the pipeline that could impinge on a house’s value in the future.
And now there’s another consideration – fracking.
Over the last couple of years, it has been included in the property information pack provided by solicitors to would-be homeowners looking to buy in an area licensed for fracking – which includes large swathes of Yorkshire.
At one time the region was awash with pit villages which sprung up to house the families of miners who worked tirelessly in the collieries that once powered the nation. They were built for a reason, though, and given the choice today few people would choose to live next to an industrial plant, whether it’s a fracking drilling platform or a power station.
The trouble is the Government has nailed its colours to the mast over fracking and residents in places like Kirby Misperton, the quiet, unassuming village nestled on the edge of the North York Moors National Park, have found themselves unwittingly on the frontline of what has become an increasingly fractious battle over the future direction of this country’s energy supply.
However, with several firms lining up to start exploratory work that could lead to fracking on numerous sites across Yorkshire, this is going to affect many more people than just the residents of Kirby Misperton.
And the question nervous homeowners want answering is will it cause house prices to fall? The answer is it depends who you speak to.
Experts at Future Climate, an independent provider of environmental risk analytics for the property industry, say that after fracking began in Lancashire in 2011, prices in the region fell from between 2.7 per cent and 4.1 per cent.
They also point to a Defra report that said there could be a seven per cent decrease in value on property within a one-mile radius of an extraction sites.
There are even some surveyors who believe that homes close to shale gas extraction sites could be devalued by twice this amount, due to fears about the risk of earthquake, water pollution and the number of lorries on the roads near fracking sites.
Perhaps not surprisingly, industry insiders dispute this. Writing in the letter pages of this newspaper in November, Ken Cronin, chief executive of industry body UK Onshore Oil and Gas, was keen to dispel the idea that fracking harmed property prices.
He said the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors had stated there was no market evidence that shale gas exploration has had any effect on property values yet, adding that more than 2,000 oil and gas wells had been drilled in this country – including 200 that were hydraulically fracked – with no evidence of house prices falling, or higher insurance premiums in these areas.
He also pointed out that wells are in production in some of the most highly valued property areas in the country, including Surrey and Dorset, as well as North Yorkshire.
There’s the argument, too, that opposition to fracking is little more than a classic case of nimbyism. There may well be some truth in that, but equally isn’t it entirely understandable?
The simple fact of the matter is that as more planning applications are given the green light, an ever increasing number of communities are going to be affected.
Whatever the pros and cons are of fracking itself, if it’s going to be an integral part of the UK’s energy mix then it’s going to cause disruption to people’s lives.
Let’s face it, if you’re living in a quiet village and someone comes along and builds an industrial plant, no matter how small and discreet, you’re going to notice it.
A house is more than just a place to live, it’s a home – somewhere to raise a family – and for many people it’s their single biggest asset.
So when it comes to fracking it boils down to this – would you pay the same amount for a house next to a fracking drill pad as you would for a carbon copy that isn’t?
TOMORROW: Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake on fracking: “I cannot oppose it in my area on the basis that this is a good idea somewhere else.”