Campaigners claimed they are “fired up” and ready to challenge the practice of hydraulic drilling for shale gas ahead of a High Court bid to overturn the approval of fracking in the North Yorkshire village of Kirby Misperton.
Scheduled to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday next week, the landmark case in London will see campaigners set out why they believe North Yorkshire County Council failed in their legal duty by approving Third Energy’s fracking application in May.
The judicial review is being brought before a judge by retired vicar Jackie Cray of Kirby Misperton, retired chartered surveyor David Davis of Hovingham and the Friends of the Earth organisation after a public fundraising campaign to cover legal costs.
Reverend Cray, whose home lies a quarter of a mile from Third Energy’s site in the North Yorkshire village, said: “This application was opposed by Ryedale District Council, every Ryedale town council, 15 parish councils, businesses such as Flamingo Land, the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, the Castle Howard Estate, and dozens of other groups and local businesses.
“The County Council received 4,375 objections against the application and only 36 letters in favour, yet still approved the plans. We can’t call this democracy.”
Friends of the Earth’s Yorkshire and Humber campaigner, Simon Bowens, added: “North Yorkshire County Council failed in their legal duty to fully assess the impact this fracking application would have on the climate and in protecting their local communities against long term financial risks.
“We are really fired up for our day in court because shale gas is a dirty fossil fuel. It’s why we are calling on the judge to see that justice is done for the community of Kirby Misperton and for the millions of people affected by catastrophic climate change.”
He added: “We can’t afford to allow the fracking industry to just go on putting communities across the world at risk by developing a new, dirty fossil fuel.”
A spokesperson for Third Energy said: “North Yorkshire County Council conducted an exhaustive investigation into Third Energy’s application to test frac an existing well at Kirby Misperton and we have every confidence that the council officials and the elected representatives on the planning committee followed all due procedures in reaching their decision.
“Our planned operation at KM8 is scheduled to last less than three months yet the process of obtaining permission to proceed has already taken nearly two years.”
A statement issued to The Yorkshire Post by North Yorkshire County Council read: “North Yorkshire County Council is awaiting the High Court’s decision whether or not to grant a judicial review.
“The planning committee gave proper regard to all material planning considerations before approving the application by Third Energy to undertake fracking for shale gas in the vicinity of Kirby Misperton.”
ROLLED UP HEARING IN LONDON
Friends of the Earth and campaigners ultimately hope that they will be able to overturn North Yorkshire County Council’s decision and halt one of the first planning applications to carry out fracking in England.
The case will be heard at a ‘rolled up’ hearing when the judge will decide whether the county council properly took into account the full impact of Third Energy’s proposal on climate change.
The legal challenge also concerns the council’s financial protection for local residents against long-term environmental damage from fracking.
Unless satisfied that a judicial review is not necessary, the judge is expected to hear legal arguments and then adjourn the case to consider his verdict.