A CONSERVATIVE manifesto pledge to move some decisions on fracking from local councils to national government could have implications in North Yorkshire – where hundreds of square miles sit within areas licensed for gas exploration.

The party has set out its intention to push forward with fracking by reclassifying non-fracking drilling as a “permitted development” which doesn’t require planning permission. It will also ensure major decisions on fracking applications are made nationally, not by local councils.

A new shale environmental regulator has been proposed, along with alterations to the shale wealth fund so a greater percentage of tax revenues from shale gas benefits affected communities.

Currently more than two dozen licences have been issued for onshore exploration in North Yorkshire to companies including Ineos, IGas and Third Energy.

Currently the Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDLs) allow a company to carry out a range of oil and gas exploration activities, subject to drilling or development consent and planning permission. There are currently more than two dozen licences issued for gas exploration in North Yorkshire, but the extent and commercial viability of these sites will only be established once drilling begins.

Currently much of the eastern half of North Yorkshire is covered by PEDL licences, from Easingwold, Kilburn and Ampleforth in the west, to the Yorkshire coast, including York, Sheffield Hutton, Malton, Helmsley and Scarborough.

Currently wells are allowed beneath national parks and PEDL licences have also been issued for central and southern areas of the North York Moors from just south of Danby down to Pickering.

Great Ayton, Guisborough, Middlesbrough and Hartlepool sit under another licence area.

If any of these areas do prove to be commercially viable, a decision on whether to allow planning permission for industrial shale gas extraction would no longer be made locally under the Conservative manifesto. But the communities could benefit from a greater share of the shale wealth fund.

Di Keal, Thirsk and Malton Liberal Democrat candidate said: “It is clear from the Tory manifesto that they intend to give the fracking companies the go ahead and take all local democratic input into the planning process away.”

Labour and the Green Party have also stated their opposition to fracking in North Yorkshire. Although nationally, UKIP has voiced its support for the industry, UKIP representatives in North Yorkshire said they are allowed to make their own judgement on the issue and its candidates are opposed to the industry.