ANTI-FRACKING demonstrators who claim councils are having their hands tied when dealing with controversial applications to drill for wells lobbied a North Yorkshire MP at the weekend.

Frack Free Ryedale protestors who are fighting plans for drilling called on Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake to stand up for their concerns.

They say a leaked letter signed by Environment Minister Liz Truss outlines plans to take decision-making away from local authority planning committees on large scale fracking schemes with multiple wells by declaring them “nationally significant infrastructure” which should be decided at national level.

Ian Conlon of Frack Free Ryedale said: "North Yorkshire County Council handling the KM8 application to frack (Third Energy’s application for testing at Kirby Misperton) has its hands tied thanks to Government rules that force the council to ‘trust’ the Environment Agency to regulate risk.

"This means residents well founded concerns such as drinking water contamination and air pollution, house prices and insurance, are not allowed to be taken into account.

“The leaked plans mean local people will only have a say on the traffic, noise, visual impact and heritage impact of just one exploratory well, and if local planners turn down the application, the fracking company can appeal. In Lancashire this has led to the intervention of a Government minister who will decide the application.”

Mr Hollinrake said: "I met with protestors and listened to their concerns regarding the prospect of shale gas exploration in Ryedale. Shale gas should not be seen as a replacement for renewable energy, but as a replacement for dirty coal that is currently burnt in our power stations.

"In my view we should continue to invest in wind, solar power and biomass but also investigate the production of shale gas, as long as this is carried out in a sensitive and environmentally friendly way."