Fracking passes planning hurdle in Yorkshire

24th May 2016

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Lotte Kolind

Fracking at a site in Yorkshire is still at least everal months away', according to the developer behind the scheme after the county council approved its application.

Third Energy applied to use hydraulic fracturing at a well at Kirby Misperton in Yorkshire, which has been operational for more than 20 years. If fracking delivers sufficient quantities, the company said it planned to produce gas at the site for up to nine years.

Councillors on the planning committee at North Yorkshire County Council supported the scheme by seven votes to four. The decision was in line with advice from the council planning officer.

The application was controversial locally and nationally. According to the planning officers’ report, 3,907 people lodged objections with the council, with 1,048 applications specifically opposed to Third Energy’s application, and the rest opposed to fracking in general. The council received 32 letters in support of the application. Around 1,000 people attended an anti-fracking rally outside the council’s offices during the planning committee meeting.

There were no objections from Natural England, Yorkshire Water, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the North York Moors National Park Authority, the local flood authority or the council’s ecology adviser. The council’s director of public health, highways authority and landscape adviser also raised no objections, although they suggested conditions to be added to the planning application. The Environment Agency granted a permit for the scheme in April.

Rasik Valand, chief executive of Third Energy, said: ‘Approval is not as a victory, but is a huge responsibility. We will have to deliver on our commitment, made to the committee and to the people of Ryedale, to undertake this operation safely and without impacting on the local environment.’

There would not be any activity at the site in the near future, he added. The company will not be able to start work until the Environment Agency and county council have discharged conditions, and it has confirmed contracts and procured equipment, Valand said.

A spokesperson for the company added: ‘It will be several months before we even think of doing anything.’

In a statement, the council said that it was aware of the controversial nature of the application and objections it had received. ‘The local circumstances associated with each application remain the overriding factor in planning decision-making. The planning committee has come to a decision therefore based on the particulars of this site. This decision does not have a bearing on future applications,’ it stated.

Oil and gas industry body UKOOG said that the decision corroborates the recommendation by the planning officer, the approval of all permits by the Environment Agency and the fact that the well had already been approved by the local council, an independent examiner and the HSE. It also noted that drilling at the site had taken place for many years without impacting the environment or the local community.

UKOOG chief executive Ken Cronin said: ‘We look forward to Third Energy being able to conduct a test to see how much gas is under this area of North Yorkshire to power and heat homes and businesses.’

Ian Conlan from local campaign group Frack Free Ryedale said: ‘It is just appalling that despite the strength of public opposition to this application it has been pushed through by councillors, who are being told what to do by a government that is determined to support the fracking industry.’

Friends of the Earth’s legal adviser, Jake White said that it was considering the detail of the decision and could seek judicial review.


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