Baroness Anne McIntosh: Fracking plans could 'devastate' North Yorkshire economy

Controversial plans to frack in North Yorkshire could have a devastating impact on the local economy, a former MP has warned.

Protesters outside County Hall in Northallerton
Protesters outside County Hall in Northallerton

Baroness Anne McIntosh warned granting permission to use the controversial mining method could turn Ryedale into “an industrial site on a massive” scale.

She was among more than 80 speakers opposing the plan to frack close to the village Kirby Misperton, as councillors began considering whether to give the go-ahead to the proposal today.

Hundreds of anti-fracking protesters gathered outside the meeting in Northallerton’s County Hall where a message of support was read out from fashion designer Vivienne Westwood with international activist Bianca Jagger also lending her backing.

Baroness McIntosh, the former MP for Thirsk and Malton, told North Yorkshire County Council’s planning committee the rural economy in Yorkshire was worth more than £17bn a year and employed 400,000 with tourism a key sector.

She said: “Given the potential scale of industrialisation of what we cherish as a rural landscape, transposing the green fields and pleasant lands of England into an industrial site on a massive scale would you recommend to people outside Ryedale to come and visit given the number of wells per square mile that we are going to face?”

She added: “There are too many unknowns, too many unanswered questions.”

Kirby Misperton resident Susan Rayment was one of a number of speakers choking back tears as they spoke to the committee.

Baroness Anne McIntosh

She said she had taken her concerns about noise during test drilling at the site in 2013 to Third Energy but was unimpressed by their response.

"They don't really give a damn," she said.

“You stand in my garden at night and it is so quiet and that is how I want it to stay. So what will happen if you give the go-ahead to drill on site and the noise will go on for years not months?”

Tony Finn, owner of the The Worsley Arms Hotel in Hovingham told the committee businesses in the area remembered the impact of the negative publicity of the foot-and-mouth disease crisis and feared a repeat if fracking is given the go-ahead.

Baroness Anne McIntosh

He said: “At a time when the British public are beginning to rediscover the beauty of their own country why would we want to invite this blight on our landscape much of which is designated as an area of outstanding beauty.

He added: “Whatever your views on fracking, the decision to allow it would simply be a long term trade off of one longstanding industry that has served the region well in favour of another that would inevitably scar the countryside, choke the infrastructure while by its own admission having no positive impact on local jobs.”