THE ISSUE of fracking in North Yorkshire could prove a significant issue at the ballot box on Thursday, as the Green party, Liberal Democrats, Labour and even UKIP field candidates opposed to the industry.

The parties hoping to challenge the Conservative’s long-standing majority grip on North Yorkshire County Council are all fielding candidates who are opposed to the industry.

They are among the 262 candidates registered to stand for one of 72 seats on the local authority.

In May last year, the Tory-held council granted permission for the first shale gas extraction site in England at Kirby Misperton. The plans received 4,375 formally recognised letters of objection and 36 letters of support, but councillors approved the plans by 7 votes to 4.

The Northern Echo: Anti fracking protestors demonstrate outside North Yorkshire county council offices in Northallerton last month.

Anti-fracking protestors demonstrating outside North Yorkshire County Council's headquarters in Northallerton last year. Picture: Stuart Boulton

More than a dozen other licences have been issued for gas exploration in North Yorkshire, including the North York Moors, although the extent and commercial viability of the sites will only be established once drilling begins.

Although candidates such as the Pickering ward’s Conservative candidate, Greg White, has stated his opposition to shale gas extraction in Ryedale, national Conservative backing for the industry has provoked bitterness amongst some of those opposed to the industry.

Nationally, UKIP has voiced its support for fracking, but all its candidates standing in the North Yorkshire election are opposed.

UKIP’s spokesman for North Yorkshire and campaign manager for the county, Andrew Dennis, said: “I live in North Yorkshire and I’m tremendously opposed to fracking. I know all our candidates are against it too.

“Our candidates are allowed to use their own judgments on issues on the basis of what their electors want, we don’t have a party whip, but all our candidates for North Yorkshire are opposed to fracking.”

Labour’s regional communications officer, Bernie Keavy, who are fielding candidates in all but six seats also said it was also opposed to the industry in North Yorkshire.

The Liberal Democrats in North Yorkshire and the Green party have also said they are opposed to the shale gas extraction industry.

Despite the contentious nature of some of the issues that have fallen under the county council’s remit, a fifth of people in North Yorkshire’s Hambleton district will not have a vote in the elections due to two seats being uncontested.

They belong to deputy leader of the council, Conservative Gareth Dadd, who has been unopposed in his Thirsk seat and Caroline Patmore, who will continue to represent the Stillington constituency.

Postcards were sent to the 13,000 voters in Hambleton, informing them they will not have a vote in the May 4 elections. In means 21 polling stations will not be used.