CAMPAIGNERS reacted with anger after the controversial process of shale gas extraction, known as 'fracking', was given the the go-ahead in North Yorkshire.

After two days of debate and statements from nearly 200 speakers, councillors voted by seven votes to four in favour of the plan at Kirby Misperton, near Malton, in Ryedale, the first permission for a fracking site in the UK since 2011. 

Last night, the chief executive of applicants, Third Energy, said the decision was "not a victory, but a huge responsibility" and promised to deliver on his company's commitment to safeguard the area.

A viability test of six to eight weeks will now be carried out at Third Energy’s existing KM-8 site. 

If it is found to be suitable, full-scale shale gas extraction will begin and could continue for up to nine years.

The Northern Echo:

Councillors taking part in the vote. Photo: North News & Pictures

Some of those against the plans declared the decision “undemocratic”. 
The application received 4,375 formally recognised letters of objection, compared with just 36 letters of support. 

But councillors at Monday’s special planning meeting approved the plans, saying they were satisfied there were enough safeguarding measures in place to protect the environment, including species and habitats and ground and surface water quality. 

North Yorkshire County Councillors John Blackie and Robert Packham voted against the officer’s recommendation for approval. 

They criticised the report, saying it had not looked at the potential socio-economic impact of fracking in Ryedale and the knock-on effect on tourism and agriculture. 

Councillor Blackie, pictured with his head in his hands after the decision was taken, said: “It’s an oversight by the planning officer. How can you over-look continued economic prosperity and say you have done a thorough job in this application?

“Who wants to come and visit Ryedale if it’s reputation is a gasfield?”

Speaking after the meeting, chairman of the planning committee, Councillor Peter Sowray said it had been a lengthy, complex report and everything had been answered as the meeting progressed. 

The Northern Echo:

Coun John Blackie, above, reacts to the vote. Photo: North News & Pictures

The councillor said: "It will take time for it to calm down, for some people it never will but we have made a decision today, the majority of members voted that way, and I'm comfortable with the outcome."

He added: "It's just one well, one existing well that's going to be fracked. It's not going to be hundreds of wells, it's just one well, that's all we're talking about."

Rasik Valand, chief executive of Third Energy said: "This approval, is not a victory, but is a huge responsibility.

"We will have to deliver on our commitment, made to the committee and to the people of Ryedale, to undertake this operation safely and without impacting on the local environment.

"However, don’t expect to see any activities on site in the near future. We have conditions from both the planning authority and the Environment Agency to discharge.

"There are other consents and notifications required prior to receiving final consent from the Secretary of State. Then there is the normal commercial and project management work, such as the letting of contracts and ordering of long lead items.

"The purpose of this application is to establish if the gas seen in some samples in this hybrid sandstone shale formation can be made to flow, at what process conditions and for how long. If this flows then we will need to assess how it performs for some months before making any conclusions.

"So now we move on to the next stage of obtaining required approvals.”
One of the protesters who joined both days of the anti-fracking rally, Will Fisher, from Thirsk, said: “I’m shocked. I feel sick right now. I don’t think it was democratic. The principal of democracy doesn’t apply here. 

The Northern Echo:

Protestors' placards outside the vote. Photo: North News & Pictures

“There was a lot of criticism of the planning report. At the end of the day we have asked an oil company to regulate themselves, draw their own conclusions and act accordingly. It’s like asking a child to mark their own maths paper.”

Ryedale District Councillor Di Keal, a member of Frack Free Ryedale, said: “This is a shocking and frankly outrageous decision that flies in the face of local people’s views, as well as those of Ryedale District Council where this site is situated, every town council in the district and many parish councils.

“Having listened to the impassioned speakers against the application, who gave perfectly sound planning reasons why the committee should reject this application, it astounds me that they trampled on their views and granted permission to a company that wants to industrialise Ryedale.

“This is not, however, the end of the matter – campaigners against this hugely damaging industry will continue the fight to prevent widespread fracking across Ryedale, Yorkshire and across the UK.”

While Sue Gough, from Little Barugh, in Ryedale, said: “I just can’t believe that the committee has approved this application and totally ignored those people who will be directly affected by fracking. 

“They have effectively now opened the floodgates for every fracking company to follow in Third Energy’s footsteps and bring about the industrialisation and destruction of, not only Ryedale, but potentially the whole of North Yorkshire and swathes of the rest of the UK.

"This is not scaremongering – we know about the risks to public health and well-being and the impact on the environment. Councillors have heard for themselves how one resident has already become ill and frightened because of the constant drilling of this well that has already taken place prior to Third Energy's intention to frack it. 

“I hope the committee members realise just what they have done and the impact of their decision for generations to come. We have fought and will continue to fight fracking for the sake of our children, grandchildren, and future generations.”

Dr Adam Marshall, acting director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, described the decision as a "much-needed victory for pragmatism, in the face of the serious energy security problems Britain faces".

He added: "Fracking has the potential to play a part in solving the UK's energy crunch, and create new energy-related jobs in many areas."