Fracking plan ‘could devastate rural economy’, warns ex-MP

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CONTROVERSIAL plans to frack in North Yorkshire could have a devastating impact on the local economy, a former MP has warned.

Baroness McIntosh claimed granting permission to use the controversial gas mining method could turn Ryedale into “an industrial site on a massive scale”.

She was among more than 70 speakers opposing Third Energy’s plan to frack close to the village of Kirby Misperton, as councillors began considering whether to give the go-ahead yesterday.

Hundreds of anti-fracking protesters noisily gathered outside the meeting, in Northallerton’s County Hall, where a message of support was read out from 
fashion designer Vivienne Westwood with international activist Bianca Jagger also lending her backing via Twitter for an issue which has garnered international attention.

Baroness McIntosh, the former MP for Thirsk and Malton which includes Kirby Misperton, told North Yorkshire County Council’s planning committee the rural economy in Yorkshire was worth more than £17bn a year and employed 400,000 with tourism a key sector.

She said: “Given the potential scale of industrialisation of what we cherish as a rural landscape, transposing the green fields and pleasant lands of England into an industrial site on a massive scale would you recommend to people outside Ryedale to come and visit given the number of wells per square mile that we are going to face?”

The former chairman of the Commons Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee added: “There are too many unknowns, too many unanswered questions.”

North Yorkshire County Council’s planning committee heard concerns over the possible damage to health, the environment and water as well as the impact of noise and traffic on the life of local residents.

Kirby Misperton resident Susan Rayment was one of a number of speakers choking back tears as they spoke to the committee about their fears over the application.

She said she had taken her concerns about noise during test drilling at the site in 2013 to Third Energy but was unimpressed by their response.

“They don’t really give a damn,” she said.

“You stand in my garden at night and it is so quiet and that is how I want it to stay.

“So what will happen if you give the go-ahead to drill on site and the noise will go on for years not months?”

Tony Finn, owner of the The Worsley Arms Hotel in Hovingham, told the committee businesses in the area still remembered the impact of the negative publicity of the foot-and-
mouth disease crisis and feared a repeat if fracking is given the go-ahead.

He said: “At a time when the British public are beginning to rediscover the beauty of their own country why would we want to 
invite this blight on our landscape much of which is designated as an area of outstanding beauty?”

He added: “Whatever your views on fracking, the decision to allow it would simply be a long- term trade off of one longstanding industry that has served the region well in favour of another that would inevitably scar the countryside, choke the infrastructure while by its own admission having no positive impact on local jobs.”

The meeting is due to continue on Monday when Third Energy and supporters of the application will have their say.

Third Energy chief executive Rasik Valand said: “Third Energy has been drilling wells, producing gas and generating electricity safely and discreetly in North Yorkshire for over 20 years and we will continue to maintain the same responsible approach in the future.”

Cheers for speakers: Page 5.