Plans to start fracking tests near the North York Moors National Park have received official recommendation, despite widespread protests.
Energy firm Third Energy first started looking at the area, near the town of Kirby Misperton in Ryedale, back in 2013, when they first identified it as a potential site for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Now, a report from the North Yorkshire county council has recommended that they begin testing the land to then start fracking proper.
“Having taken into account the environmental information relating to this application” and “having had due regard to the Human Rights Act; the relevant issues arising have been assessed as the potential effects upon those living within the vicinity of the application site”, the council recommend that “planning permission be granted for the purpose to hydraulically stimulate and test the various geological formations previous identified…followed by the production of gas”.
The report argues that allowing fracking to occur on this site would help promote security of energy supply, and domestic production of energy generally, that and as such it is in line with the government and the Department for Energy and Climate Change’s overall aims as they are understood at present.
The report said: “The Government’s Annual Energy Statement (published in October 2013) referred to in that same paragraph points out that national energy policy has two key drivers; namely, the need for energy security and carbon emission reduction. Whilst acknowledging that renewable energy will have a part to play, the government’s view is that oil and gas, especially indigenous oil and gas, will remain key to energy security and, at the same time, facilitate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.”
The report has been met with staunch opposition from environmental campaigners who have been critical of Third Energy’s plans (and plans to frack generally) since they were made public.
The report’s authors have been criticised for failing to properly take into account the associated risks, as well as failing to take on the many objections already officially raised.
The North Yorkshire Council acknowledge that the report received some 4,000 representations in consultation, “many of which are representations in objection”.
It said: “Members will be very aware that this is a controversial proposal of major sensitivity and complexity. This is indeed demonstrated by the receipt of over 4,000 representations…and formal objections”.
However, the objections were dismissed on the grounds that many pointed to issues that the council did not consider widespread enough based on the fact that “each application must be considered of its individual merits”.
“Furthermore,” it went on, “notwithstanding that the effects of any development will, of course, have certain degrees of impact upon those living, working and holidaying within the vicinity of the site, there has been no demonstrable evidence to substantiate such statements to a material degree to warrant re-consideration of the assessment of the proposal as presented by the applicant”.
Importantly, while the report does recommend that test commence, it is by no means a guarantee that such action will go ahead.
Friends of the Earth Yorkshire campaigner Simon Bowens 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.”
Protests are expected to occur at the site, in what will add to the growing number of those in vocal opposition to companies seeking to commence fracking operations around the UK.