National park bosses said no precedent has been set for future development on the county’s protected landscapes after giving the go-ahead to a project to extract gas in the North York Moors near to Scarborough.
Reserves under Ebberston Moor, could be tapped for up to 20 years after the national park authority’s planning committee approved two planning applications by Viking UK Gas on Thursday.
The park is facing the biggest wave of development in its history from a series of multimillion pound gas and mineral mining projects, prompting warnings from campaigners that the very fabric of such areas was in “real danger of being lost”.
Mark Hill, the authority’s head of development management, said he was aware of increasing concerns about the “critical mass” of mineral opportunities but insisted the Ebberston scheme would not pave the way for less suitable projects.
“There isn’t an absolute no to mineral extraction in the park but they must prove they can do it in a very environmentally and landscape friendly way, “ he said.
“In this case, they have demonstrated that - but it doesn’t set a precedent for other schemes that may be far less sensitive.”
Permission was granted for an initial five-year operation to establish the viability of extracting gas from the field, which was shut down in 1974 after difficulties tapping the reserves.
A second application to extend the scheme for a further 15 years if it proves successful was also permitted.
The longer-term plan would see gas sent along a new 15km pipeline to a generating station in Knapton to be burned to create electricity for the national grid, or cleaned and sent along a second pipeline into the main gas grid near Thornton-le-Dale.
It is hoped enough gas could be extracted to power as many as 40,000 homes a year.
Work on the temporary scheme is set to begin in January with gas production expected by July. Conditions require the site to be restored to its original state before the end of the overall 20-year time frame.