Fracking: Concerns over plans to drill beneath North York Moors national park

Fracking equipment at a site in Pennsylvania, USA
Fracking equipment at a site in Pennsylvania, USA

A fracking company intends to carry out drilling beneath the North York Moors national park.

Ineos Shale this year plans to carry out consultations and survey work in the Wolds south of Malton and in the southern fringe of the North York Moors national park – “Heartbeat country”.

The shale layer lies thousands of metres underground.

The shale layer lies thousands of metres underground.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves drilling vertically to a depth of upto 5km and then horizontally, blasting down a mixture of water, sand and chemicals to break open the shale rock and release natural gas.

Vertical drilling is banned in national parks – but companies can site wells outside the boundary and then “frack” horizontally beneath the park.

Those against fracking claim it can lead to health, climate and environmental problems, and that the country should move away from fossil-fuel use.

The fracking companies say it is essential in providing the UK with gas for the next 50 years and alternatives such as solar and wind power are not yet viable to meet the demand.

Ineos Shale has, since July, taken out injunctions which prohibit unlawful actions such as trespass, intimidation and obstruction around any of its sites, in a move designed to prevent a repeat of scenes such as those at the Kirby Misperton fracking site

Areas it intends to survey and explore include Malton and Norton, Settrington, Welburn, Whitwell on the Hill, Kirby Grindalythe and Sledmere.

An Ineos Shale spokesperson said: “In the case of our proposed survey work in North Yorkshire we have met with North Yorkshire County Council to consult council officers on our plans. We are committed to being open and approachable and carrying out genuine two-way dialogue with consultees from individuals to councils.

“No fracking sites will ever be located in the national park, however horizontal drilling could take place underneath the park from drill sites outside. This drilling will not impact the park and is consistent with the safe and proven nature of shale extraction.

"All activities will be preceded by an intensive and responsive schedule of consultation and assessment in order to ensure and demonstrate that this will have a negligible impact on the local area."

Jim Tucker, from Frack Free Ryedale, said: “With so many PEDL licences already in the hands of companies like Ineos there is no-one across the county who won’t be affected by this hugely damaging industry.

“We have a growing body of evidence on the harmful impact of the industry on public health, the environment, local business including agriculture and tourism and, most recently, the effect on house prices when the frackers move in.

“Everyone needs to wake up to the overwhelming damage that fracking will do to their local community – we urge them to join our campaign against the industry.”

The North York Moors National Park Authority said the park “is a specially-protected place for good reason. As the guardians of this magnificent landscape, its habitats, wildlife and tranquillity, the authority remains firmly against fracking for shale gas beneath the National Park. We need to consider the area’s long-term interests”.