A CASH-strapped authority was forced to spend £38,700 on defending its decision to allow fracking to go-ahead, it has been revealed.

North Yorkshire County Council spent the money on defence costs after anti-fracking campaigners demanded a judicial review.

It followed the authority’s decision to approve a test fracking site at Kirby Misperton in May last year.

The legal hearing eventually came down on the county council’s side and the authority was awarded £15,000 in costs afterwards.

But in response to a Freedom of Information request the council said external legal costs to research and conduct the defence to the judicial review were approximately £38,700.

Additionally its own internal legal team spent 231 hours on the case – equating to a charge out rate of around £4,600.

The FoI request was made by local resident Lorraine Allanson, who supports shale gas extraction and is the founder of the Friends of Ryedale Gas Exploration.

“I was shocked to find out how much our county council had to waste on defending its democratically-made decision,” she said.

“At a time when local services are under pressure and suffering cutbacks, it’s important that local council tax payers see their money spent where it makes a difference. The judicial review meant that funds were needlessly diverted away from communities where they would have been better spent.”

She said the money could have funded more than 2,700 hours of home care for the elderly.

“That could have been used to help literally thousands of elderly people for an hour a day or a staggering 110 days of 24-hour care,” she added.

However Ian Conlan of the Frack Free Ryedale group responded: “As anyone who understands local government will know, all councils hold contingency funds to deal with any legal costs arising out of council decisions, and this amount of money in the context of a county council is relatively small,” he said.

“Moreover, it will have no impact on the council’s statutory duty to provide care for the elderly.”

He added: “Of far more importance is to ensure that we hold councils to account for their decisions, and the way they make their decisions, especially in this case when they set a precedent that will open the floodgates to thousands of fracking wells on our beautiful landscape.”