CALLS have been made for those councillors who supported the exploration of shale gas in North Yorkshire to step-down and seek re-election on a pro-fracking platform.

Thirsk and Malton Constituency Labour Party says it is “deeply disappointed” by North Yorkshire County Council's decision to back Third Energy’s plans to explore shale gas reserves from a well at Kirby Misperton, near Pickering.

The plans were approved by seven votes to four at a special planning meeting on Friday (May 20) and Monday. The meeting considered two days of submissions from speakers at County Hall in Northallerton and a lengthy report by council planners, which recommended approval.

Now the local Labour party has called on the seven councillors who voted for the plans to stand down. They have also pledged to put forward local anti-fracking candidates in every constituency in the event of any election.

The political group says it commended the Conservative-led Ryedale District Council and four county council planning committee members who stood against the application.

In a statement they said: “Thirsk and Malton CLP applauds the four North Yorkshire councillors on the planning committee who voted against fracking.

“However, the seven who voted for fracking have in our view failed to carry out their duty to represent the interests and wishes of the electorate and in so doing have betrayed local democracy and added to the general cynicism about politics and politicians and perceptions of corruption.”

The political group also called for a ten year moratorium on fracking “unless and until it is demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that it carries no detriment to the environment, health and wellbeing of residents, and the agricultural and tourism economy.”

A separate, independent petition has also been launched calling for a vote of no confidence in the councillors and planners by North Yorkshire resident Andrew Newton.

But chairman of the planning committee, Conservative councillor Peter Sowray said politics did not come into their decision.

“We don’t do party politics in the planning committee; each member is a member of the planning committee in their own right. There’s no political pressure from anywhere – from the local party, or national party or government. We’re free agents and we make our own minds up.”

He said that Monday’s approval of permission to explore for shale gas at the KM8 well did not pose any threat to Ryedale’s existing food, tourism and farming industries.

“We’re not talking about hundreds of wells,” he said.

“If anybody wants to drill a well they have to come back for planning permission. I wish people would stop saying the area will be an industrial wasteland – it will scare off the tourists and food buyers and visitors. They do more harm than good saying that.

“Malton has lived in a gas field for the last 20 years without incident and people are just trying to make this more than it is.”