“What faith can local people have in democracy if the members of the planning committee can just completely ignore both the strength of local opinion and the sound planning grounds that objectors have raised? It is a sham.” (Photo: PA)
North Yorkshire council’s “appalling” decision comes just days after UK celebrated five years “frack-free.”
by Deirdre Fulton
Furious environmental campaigners vowed to fight back on Tuesday after councilors in North Yorkshire approved the UK’s first fracking permit in five years.
The North Yorkshire County Council on Monday approved Third Energy’s application to frack the fields near the North York Moors National Park—just days after people across the country celebrated five years of being “frack-free.”
According to The Independent, “the application was passed despite the presence of hundreds of protestors, who gathered outside County Hall in Northallerton throughout the hearing which began on Friday.”
In fact, a council planning officer said there had been 4,375 letters of objection and 36 of support for the application.
“It is just appalling that despite the strength of public opposition to this application it has been pushed through by councilors, who are being told what to do by a government that is determined to support the fracking industry,” declared Ian Conlan from local campaign group Frack Free Ryedale. “What faith can local people have in democracy if the members of the planning committee can just completely ignore both the strength of local opinion and the sound planning grounds that objectors have raised? It is a sham.”
Furthermore, said Green MEP Keith Taylor, “Councils in North Yorkshire will now find it more difficult to reject future fracking applications. This could result in hundreds of wells across Ryedale and the industrialization of North Yorkshire’s precious countryside. The decision is also likely to send the message that Britain is ‘up for shale’ to other local authorities in England and the wider fracking industry.”
Indeed, he added, the announcement “will also be welcomed by a government so determined to fast-track this dangerous industry that it is prepared to overrule authorities that wish to remain frack-free.”
The Guardian reports:
The council’s decision on Monday was met with chants of “We say no” and “You will be held accountable”.
“It is a war, now, they’ve declared on us,” said Sarah Hockey, an anti-fracking campaigner from east Yorkshire. “It’s a war on our human rights to clean air and water so we’ve got to take it like that and keep pushing and pushing and pushing.
“It’s what happens now that matters,” said Hockey, a teacher. “This is just the beginning. I believe there’s a lot more that people can do. It’s boots on the ground that’s going to stop this now.”
Friends of the Earth, which called the decision “a travesty,” said it is considering legal action along with Frack Free Ryedale.
The two groups together on Tuesday launched a “People’s Declaration” against fracking, which reads in part:
We, as people united across Yorkshire and across Britain, declare that we remain opposed to fracking in Yorkshire, in Britain, and across the world. We know that fracking carries serious risks to local people, to our health, our water, our wildlife, and contributes to climate change.
We are extremely disappointed that North Yorkshire County Council has not listened to the overwhelming wishes of the locally elected representatives of Ryedale and local people and has approved Third Energy’s application to frack in our county.
This decision is not in our name.
As local resident Sue Gough said on Monday: “We have fought and will continue to fight fracking for the sake of our children, grandchildren, and future generations.”
Deirdre Fulton is a staff writer at Common Dreams where this article first appeared.
Now fracking firms set sights on beauty spots across Britain: Hundreds of sites could be approved for drilling including national parks
- Landmark planning decision in Yorkshire puts other countryside at risk
- Monday ruling on Ryedale, North Yorkshire Moors, could set precedent
- Potential sites at Peak District, Exmoor and South Downs may go ahead
Vast swathes of countryside face a renewed threat from fracking after a landmark planning decision, campaigners warned yesterday.
They say that the go-ahead for a scheme in Yorkshire could be the ‘tip of the iceberg’, with hundreds of drilling projects across Britain, including beauty spots, to follow.
Sites have been earmarked around protected areas of England including the Peak District, Exmoor and the South Downs. Some 22 licences for extraction were issued last year and almost 200 exploratory licences have been granted. With a typical licence covering an area of 62 square miles, that represents an area of more than 12,000 square miles.
The go-ahead for a scheme in Yorkshire could be the ‘tip of the iceberg’, with hundreds of drilling projects across Britain, including beauty spots in the Peak District and Exmoor (pictured) to follow
Some 22 licences for extraction were issued last year and almost 200 exploratory licences have been granted
Decisions are expected on several controversial fracking projects this summer and campaigners fear that Monday’s ruling in Ryedale, North Yorkshire, will set a precedent.
Councillors voted to approve the extraction of shale gas at Kirby Misperton, near the North Yorks Moors national park, despite angry protests from residents, who accused the council of ignoring democracy.
Campaigners are considering a legal challenge to the decision amid fears it will cause irreversible damage to the environment and jeopardise tourism and agriculture.
Fracking involves using high pressure to force water and chemicals deep underground to open up fractures in the rock to release trapped reserves of oil and gas.
Critics say it risks polluting water courses and fracking was suspended in Britain in 2011 after a drilling operation by Cuadrilla on the Fylde coast in Lancashire was blamed for causing two small earthquakes.
But supporters claim it will secure Britain’s energy supply and create jobs and investment, with its widespread use in the US cited as an example. David Cameron has said he wanted to go ‘all out’ for fracking and the Government has offered tax breaks and community payments to help the industry as it seeks to secure energy supplies and phase out coal.
The Kirby Misperton scheme is the first to be approved since fracking was suspended in 2011. An existing well was drilled three years ago and Third Energy, the firm behind the scheme, has been granted consent to carry out test fracking nearly two miles below ground.
If the tests are successful it has permission for nine years of shale gas production, although the firm has said work will not begin at the site for several months.
Decisions are expected on several controversial fracking projects this summer, including one in the Peak District, and campaigners fear that Monday’s ruling in Ryedale, North Yorkshire, will set a precedent.
Campaigners accused councillors of ignoring the views of the community, after it emerged that the authority had received 4,375 objections and only 36 letters of support.
Jules Marley, regional chairman of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: ‘It’s heartbreaking. There is bewilderment here about how this decision was reached in a democracy.
‘People are angry and hurt and their belief in the system has been damaged because they made their representations with dignity and balance and yet they’ve been ignored. We are walking towards the industrialisation of the National Park. We’ve only got one countryside and once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.’
Although wells cannot be drilled within the parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty or World Heritage sites, fracking will be allowed underneath – with wells drilled just outside their borders.
In the South West, campaigners said they feared the North Yorkshire decision meant that fracking had moved a step closer for the rest of Britain. Green Party MEP Molly Scott Cato said 22 licences for oil and gas extraction were issued last year for areas in Dorset, Wiltshire and Somerset.
She said: ‘This is the tip of the iceberg and we could now see the frackers begin their march across our beautiful region.
‘Some of our most fragile and treasured landscapes could become exposed to noise, air, light and water pollution.’