Rural battle over fracking

Cuadrilla exploration drilling site in West Sussex. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Cuadrilla exploration drilling site in West Sussex. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

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A tug-of-war has broken out as energy companies and campaigners fight over the future of some of the most picturesque parts of Yorkshire.

Anti-fracking campaigners and energy firms are fiercely lobbying over the rules which will be used to decide applications to carry out controversial fracking operations in North Yorkshire, York and the North York Moors National Park.

The three authorities asked for opinions on a draft plan for dealing with future proposals connected to dealing with waste or mining minerals - including shale gas which is extracted using the fracking method.

Analysis of the responses reveals Dart Energy is arguing against any wholesale move to try and divert gas mining away from the national park or areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs) or to apply special restrictions around their borders.

In its representations, Egdon Resources has argued that gas production has taken place in the national park for half a century with no impact on its “special qualities”. It and Third Energy, which already carries out conventional gas extraction in the area, suggests planning permission for future schemes, including fracking, is granted “provided they do not result in any significant adverse impacts on local communities or the environment”.

However, the authorities have also been deluged with calls to reject applications to frack in the area altogether by environmental organisations and individuals concerned about the potential visual impact, pollution of groundwater, earth tremors and traffic – issues the energy industry insists have been exaggerated.

Ryedale Council has argued that until the impact of fracking is better known the policy “should not support the process in principle” while Hovingham and Scackleton Parish Council has also objected and Pickering Town Council has expressed concerns.

Russell Scott, spokesman for the Frack Free North Yorkshire campaign group, said the consultation responses showed that companies were trying to persuade the authorities to take an approach where fracking is “actively encouraged”.

“Frack Free North Yorkshire along with many other organisations are working with concerned members of the public to oppose all forms of fracking in our county.

“We will strongly urge North Yorkshire County Council to adopt policies that prohibit and discourage fracking and also adopt policies centred around a low carbon, renewable and clean energy future. Countries such as France and Germany have banned fracking because of the threat it poses to our environment, “ he said.

Ken Cronin, chief executive of industry body UK Onshore Oil and Gas, said: “We support the evidence-based approach taken by the local authorities in North Yorkshire for their minerals and waste joint plan. Gas has been extracted from fields in the region for many decades.”

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