COUNCIL proposals to ensure a 500m buffer zone between homes and fracking rigs has received provisional endorsement from the planning inspector, but gas and oil companies continue to oppose the potential restriction.

Local authorities in North Yorkshire have welcomed a planning inspector’s indicative response to its key policies on fracking contained in its joint minerals and waste plan for the region.

The proposals from the City of York Council, North Yorkshire County Council and the North York Moors National Park Authority went before the inspector, Elizabeth Ord, during the public examination of their plan.

The councils had been asked to provide additional evidence to support their proposal for a distance of 500m between above-surface fracking and anyone’s home. The plan proposed fracking within 500m would only be permitted where it was “robustly demonstrated” there would be no unacceptable impacts.

She also asked for additional evidence to support the minerals and waste plan proposal for legal protection for parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, scheduled monuments, registered battlefields, listed historic parks and gardens and the historic setting of York.

The council said this would include strays, river corridors and some green areas and villages.

Ms Ord has indicated she's satisfied with the joint authorities’ position on protecting certain areas from fracking to maintain the special characteristics and heritage of York.

Ms Ord has also said she's provisionally happy with the 500m buffer zone, but will give further consideration to representations on this point from the UK gas and oil industry who have objected to this restriction in strong terms.

A spokesperson for the council said the inspector’s indicative view is “encouraging and a step towards achieving a heightened level of policy protection from fracking, for the special characteristics of this part of the Yorkshire landscape, the heritage of York and the residents within the plan area.”

Ken Cronin, chief executive for UKOOG (UK Onshore Oil and Gas) said: “We note the comments made by the planning inspector today and have highlighted a number of concerns which we will be addressing through the process.

“It should be noted that we have safely been operating in North Yorkshire for many decades within local communities and we see that will continue.”

City of York Councillor, Andrew Waller, said: “It is important to remember that the inspector has not made a final decision, and any modifications will be subject to further consultation. However, we are encouraged by the inspectors’ comments and are satisfied that our arguments have been given a fair and considered hearing.

“Our policy recognises the value of our city’s natural environment. We are therefore asking for our city’s special features and characteristics to remain free of drilling operations.

“Our policy also protects our residents, who have a legal right not to experience massive increases in noise levels of large rigs. The rigs can also be very visually intrusive, requiring screens up to ten metres high.

“We have presented this case clearly to the inspector and look forward to her findings in due course.”