Campaigners in legal threat to fracking plan

Demonstrators outside County Hall last month
Demonstrators outside County Hall last month

ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners have claimed a decision to allow fracking to go-ahead in Yorkshire could have been taken illegally and be challenged in the courts.

Friends of the Earth and local campaign group Frack Free Ryedale have written to North Yorkshire County Council demanding answers over the way the decision was taken.

They have warned the letter could be followed by an application to the courts to have the decision overturned.

The county’s planning committee voted by seven to four in favour of allowing fracking to go-ahead at a site in Ryedale following a two-day hearing last month which saw vocal protests staged outside County Hall in Northallerton.

The decision paves the way for the controversial fracking mining method to be used onshore in the UK for the first time since 2011 when operations on the Fylde coast were suspended amid concerns about earth tremors.

Environmental campaigners fear the North Yorkshire decision will encourage more energy companies to submit applications to explore for and extract gas using fracking.

In a letter send to the county council today, the campaigners argue the authority did not put enough weight on the potential impact on global warming of burning the gas extracted at Kirby Misperton.

Friends of the Earth legal adviser Jake White said: “Communities have no right of appeal against fracking decisions, only developers do.

“Friends of the Earth and local people can’t appeal to get the councillors’ decision over-turned.

“Given that we have legitimate legal concerns it is only right that the court may be called upon to decide them.

“Because the decision appears to have been arrived at without properly considering climate change, we believe it to be unlawful.”

The decision to allow the Kirby Misperton application, which received nationwide attention, was a huge shot in the arm for the energy industry following a series of setbacks in attempts to use fracking in the UK.

The Government has given its backing to fracking, arguing it could improve energy security and provide jobs and valuable tax revenues to help fund public services.

Communities near potential fracking sites have also been offered the chance to benefit financially when wells are drilled.

However, environmental and community groups have mounted vociferous campaigns opposing fracking, arguing it poses a risk to farming and water supplies and will disfigure the landscape in areas reliant on tourism.

Lancashire County Council rejected two applications last year from exploration firm Cuadrilla. The company has appealed against those decisions and the final decision will be taken by Local Government Secretary Greg Clark.

Energy companies insist the process is safe and problems experienced overseas are the result of poor regulation.

Fracking, properly known as hydraulic fracturing, involves sand, water and chemicals being pumped into rock formations deep underground to free trapped gas.

Third Energy, the company behind the Kirby Misperton application, has said it is likely to be many months before work begins on site.