Fears for moors as new company eyes gas bonanza

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PLANS to begin gas exploration in a Yorkshire national park have been agreed just a month after another nearby multi-million pound gas project was given the green light, raising fears one of the region’s most famous landscapes is under threat.

Gas exploration and production company Egdon Resources has been granted planning consent for an exploratory gas borehole near the village of Westerdale by the North York Moors Planning Committee.

The company hopes to build on a previous discovery of a major gas field made in the 1960s.

The decision comes after the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government agreed in June to grant planning permission for the Ryedale Gas Project, one of the biggest operations of its kind in the north of England which has sparked fury among residents with 10,000 people adding their names to a petition.

The scheme is aimed at generating enough gas every day to meet the annual energy requirements of up to 1,600 homes, with a well-head drawing on natural reserves within the confines of the national park, and the main plant outside near Thornton-le-Dale.

Meanwhile, the Yorkshire Post understands a full planning application is due to be submitted in October this year for a £2bn potash mine after exploratory drilling in the North York Moors found one of the world’s most extensive deposits of the mineral.

Mark Hill, head of development management at the North York Moors National Park Authority, said: “There is certainly a significant amount of mineral development upon us at this point in time.

“The trouble is Government planning guidelines oblige us to look at the different phases differently rather than as a whole.

“We are meant to be more favourable to the exploratory processes, our big concern is the extraction of minerals. Certainly, for the period of construction and drilling, this borehole is going 
to have an impact on the landscape of that part of the national park.

“The drill rigs are pretty tall and are lit up and operate 24 hours a day in what is a quiet area of the North York Moors.

“But they will only be there for 12 weeks at a time.

“There clearly are concerns about what this will lead to.”

Mark Abbott, Egdon’s managing director, said: “We are delighted that the national park authority has approved our application for the Westerdale-2 well.

“The final timing of the drilling will be dependent upon the conditions of planning, rig and contractor availability and final joint venture approval and is likely to be during 2013.”

He added: “We recognise the unique qualities of the North York Moors and, in accordance with Egdon’s health, safety and environmental procedures, will be doing everything possible to minimise the impact of our activities on the area.”

The company says the exploratory drilling operation will last for no more than six weeks, after which the rig and associated equipment will be dismantled.

Only the concrete base will remain while the results of the drilling are analysed.

Moorland Energy first submitted blueprints for the Ryedale Gas Project in April 2010.

The proposals were then considered at a public inquiry in the autumn last year.

North Yorkshire County Council, which is the main planning authority, had itself formally objected to the scheme.

It is hoped the impending potash mine, which would be the first of its kind in the UK for nearly 40 years, will bring a massive employment boost with up to 5,000 jobs to the Yorkshire coast.

But opponents fear that a major mining operation would destroy one of the country’s finest landscapes.

There are also concerns over the amount of traffic that will be generated.

joe.shute@ypn.co.uk