PLANS for gas exploration under part of the North York Moors have been criticised by the Ramblers Association.

It attacked the proposed scheme as a blot on the landscape for which there is no over-riding need.

It also said that what would start as a small-scale exploration could develop into a large-scale manufacturing process.

The ramblers are one of a number of objectors to a plan by Sterling Resources (UK) involving land off Whysett bank in Westerdale.

The company wants to sink an exploratory borehole to search for gas reserves and to carry out access and highway improvements.

The North York Moors National Park's planning committee will consider the issue when it meets at Helmsley next week.

But the Ramblers Associaiton expressed its fear that the scheme could lead to continuous gas extraction from the site.

A spokesman said: "The development would neither conserve nor enhance the natural beauty and wildlife of the area, rather the reverse, because as well as visual pollution, chemical pollution arising from the operation will occur.

"If the gas were to be piped away, the undergrounding will mar the scenery for many years. This healing process will take a long time because the pipeline would mostly run over poor, elevated, exposed ground."

"It will reduce the enjoyment of residents and visitors who come to the area for its special qualities. The development would have adverse effects on businesses serving visitors in the area."

Other objectors are also raising concerns about the impact of noise and traffic on the area and have quoted a 12th Century Abbot of Rievaulx, Aelred, who said: "Everywhere peace, everywhere serenity, and a marvellous freedom from the tumult of the world."

Sterling has been granted a Government licence to explore for hydrocarbons in an area that extends from the centre of the national park to Teesside. The company said it needs to sink the borehole to add to information secured from others in recent years.