A key report has recommended councillors give the go-ahead to plans to frack at a site in North Yorkshire.
The report prepared ahead of next week’s crucial planning meeting is a significant step towards fracking going ahead in the county for the first time.
However, the verdict of North Yorkshire County Council head of planning Victoria Perkin is only a recommendation and it will be up to councillors to take the final decision.
Her report reveals the county has received more than 4,000 representations over the fracking application “many of which are representations
Objections have been lodged on the grounds of possible impacts on health, the environment, the landscape and disturbance and the impact of traffic movements to and from the site.
The County Council’s planning committee is due to consider Third Energy’s application to use the controversial mining method at a site near Kirby Misperton on Friday, May 20.
The meeting is expected to receive national attention given the significant opposition that has greeted every attempt by energy firms to frack in the UK.
Third Energy chief executive Rasik Valand said: “We are pleased that the planning officer has recommended that North Yorkshire County Council approve our application.
“Within our application, and throughout North Yorkshire County Council’s thorough assessment of it, including various stages of consultation, and through all the additional information provided, we have addressed the wide range of questions, concerns and comments raised by NYCC, statutory consultees and others. This work is reflected in the planning officer’s report together with the planning conditions proposed.
“We believe that this thorough report will enable North Yorkshire County Council to reach a positive determination on our application.”
Third Energy’s application is the first in North Yorkshire but other companies have licence to explore for gas in the area which is considered by geologists to be a promising target for fracking.
Both Third Energy and opponents of the proposal will now pore over the 250 page planning report ahead of next week’s meeting.
Simon Bowens, Friends of the Earth’s Yorkshire campaigner, said: “While it is disappointing that planning officers have dismissed the serious risks of fracking in Ryedale, Third Energy shouldn’t be popping champagne corks yet.
“North Yorkshire Councillors have been presented with clear evidence that Third Energy’s application could harm local wildlife, local business, people’s health and the environment - including from Ryedale District Council, Flamingo Land and the Wildlife Trust.
“The council must now listen to the thousands of residents who have objected to fracking, and the strong evidence put before them, and reject Third Energy’s proposal to frack.”
Ian Conlan, from the Frack Free Ryedale group, said: “Flamingo Land join the thousands of residents, businesses, farmers and landowners that have objected to the application in unprecedented numbers to the County Council.
“When democratically elected councillors see the overwhelming opposition from our communities to fracking, and the votes of Ryedale District Council, all five Ryedale Town Councils, and numerous parish councils, we hope that they will recognise the strength of public opinion and turn this application down.”
Fracking involves the drilling of wells deep underground with sand, water and chemicals pumped at high pressure into rock formations to free trapped pockets of gas.
The Government is enthusiastically backing the development of a UK fracking industry after the technique has been widely used in the United States where energy prices have dropped significantly.
Ministers have argued fracking could be a source of jobs, energy security and tax revenues but campaigners have vociferously protested at every attempt to use it in the UK.
County councillors in Lancashire refused applications to frack there last year and those decisions are currently being appealed by energy exploration firm Cuadrilla.