YP Comment: May day decision for fracking

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Council to consider application

It has been a long time coming but finally residents in Kirby Misperton will find out next month whether their Ryedale village will be used as a fracking site.

When Third Energy first asked for permission to use the controversial mining method at Kirby Misperton in July last year, it sparked a bitter row with anti-fracking campaigners quick to voice their opposition.

So the news that North Yorkshire County Council has confirmed that its planning committee will consider the application in May has great significance. There is a lot riding on the outcome after applications to frack on the Fylde Coast were rejected by Lancashire County Council last year.

Planning rules say the application should have been decided within 16 weeks and the repeated delays, amid requests for further information, have no doubt irked energy firms and the Government, which sees shale gas as a potential energy provider for years to come.

But North Yorkshire County Council deserves credit for not rushing into a decision, for while there are those who contend that North Yorkshire should not spurn such commercial opportunities – its picture postcard scenes mask hidden pockets of deprivation – there is clearly deep unease about the environmental ramifications of fracking.

The arguments about its pros and cons run deep. Fracking has been credited with dramatically cutting energy prices in the US and the UK Government believes it could provide jobs and better energy security in this country.

But there has been huge opposition, with campaigners claiming it poses a grave risk to the environment and will disfigure the countryside.

Too often, however, the debate has overlooked the people at the centre of this crucial issue, like those who live in Kirby Misperton on the fracking frontline. At least now residents there know that the countdown to a decision has finally begun.

Call for clarity

Scrutiny key to public office

The decision to politicise our police forces with the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners was akin to opening Pandora’s Box, leaving the maintenance of law and order exposed to the same wrangles and point-scoring that so often stymies the effective running of our country.

Some may feel that this is what is now happening in North Yorkshire, with former deputy chief constable Peter Walker – who previously attempted to become the Conservative candidate for the role of the county’s PCC – calling on independent candidate and former officer Mike Pannett to allow his service record to be released.

However, given that Mr Pannett, if elected, would oversee a budget approaching £150m and take responsibility for making key decisions on the conduct of thousands of officers and support staff, there is a justifiable case for transparency – and he should now provide it.

Mr Pannett left North Yorkshire Police in 2007, a few months after being given “management advice” following an internal force investigation and disciplinary hearing over what he says was a short, “ill-advised” relationship with a single female police officer.

It is regrettable that, across the country, the role of Police and Crime Commissioner has become so enmeshed with local politics. It is to his credit that Mr Pannett pledges to break free from such a straitjacket.

However, he must also accept that it is incumbent on those who seek public office to subject themselves to the closest scrutiny. If they do not, there is a risk that their authority in the position might be fatally weakened – both among those in their charge and the wider public they serve.

Victoria Wood – a loss to us all

When the organisers of next year’s Baftas come to compile the section on those no longer with us, 
it will be more poignant than usual.

Already this year we have lost Terry Wogan, Alan Rickman, Ronnie Corbett, Paul Daniels and now the brilliant Victoria Wood who has died aged just 62.

Ever since her appearance on the talent show New Faces in 1976 it was clear that this was someone who deserved more than 15 minutes of fame. And she got it. From the sublime Acorn Antiques to Dinnerladies, Wood was a master of her craft and every line she wrote was a celebration of a very distinct northern voice.

As adept behind the camera as she was in front of it, Wood was a writer, a director and a performer who was as modest as she was talented.

With her death the world of light entertainment just got a little darker.