CAMPAIGNERS have urged ministers to leave the decision over whether fracking in Yorkshire should get the go-ahead in local hands after it emerged the process will be delayed again.
North Yorkshire County Council has launched a fresh consultation on Third Energy’s plan to frack near Kirby Misperton, in Ryedale.
The move scuppers plans for councillors to take a decision next month, having already postponed it from November. The company is calling on the authority to reach a “speedy” decision.
The Government, which has backed the creation of a UK fracking industry, has previously warned councils that ministers will step in and take decisions if they are slow to consider applications to use the controversial mining method.
Simon Bowens, regional campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: “It is essential that decisions on fracking should be made by county councillors provided with the full information and not imposed on communities by Government ministers.”
The end of March is now emerging as the next possible date for a decision but there could yet be further delays with the county council insisting it requires more information from Third Energy.
A spokesman from the Frack Free Ryedale campaign group said: “The company needed three attempts to just get the application ratified, and this third public consultation is unlikely to be the last, given that North Yorkshire County Council say that they still haven’t supplied all the necessary paperwork.”
But Third Energy insists it has supplied the information requested by the authority.
A spokesman said: “We hope that we can now move to a speedy determination and that local communities and the country at large can benefit safely and without undue impact on the environment from the opportunities afforded by shale gas exploration.”
The Government’s threat to intervene in fracking decisions followed industry concerns that councils were deliberately dragging their feet over planning applications.
In a statement, North Yorkshire County Council said it had to begin a fresh consultation because of the latest documents from Third Energy and information it had requested remained outstanding.
“Third Energy have been made aware of the position of the council. If further information is received, this may necessitate further consultation.
“We continue to endeavour to meet the earliest planning committee meeting we can for a determination,” it said.
Fracking involves the pumping of water, sand and some chemicals at high pressure into rock formations deep underground to release trapped gas.
The energy industry maintains the process is safe and ministers argue it could improve the UK’s energy security and create jobs.
But anti-fracking campaigners argue it poses major risks of contamination to the wider environment.