Yorkshire market town to be front line in fracking battle

A fracking protest in Malton this week
A fracking protest in Malton this week
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ANTI-FRACKING campaigners have insisted they have not lost hope despite council planning officers recommending the go-ahead for proposals to use the controversial mining method in North Yorkshire.

A rally with speakers including fashion designer Vivienne Westwood will be staged outside County Hall, in Northallerton, on Friday as North Yorkshire County Council’s planning committee considers the proposals.

Campaigners are expecting supporters from across the country to converge on the market town to take part in the rally.

North Yorkshire has become the new front line in the battle over fracking after Lancashire County Council last year rejected applications from exploration firm Cuadrilla to frack at two sites. The company is appealing against the decisions.

North Yorkshire County Council today confirmed the meeting is likely to stretch into a second day to accommodate the number of people who want to speak.

According to the council, more than 4,000 representations have been received over the application including “many” objections to Third Energy’s plan to frack for gas at a site near Kirby Misperton, between Malton and Pickering.

On Thursday night, the county released its 252-page report on the application, along with 141 pages of appendices, recommending approval.

Ryedale district councillor Dinah Keal, one of the leading figures in the local anti-fracking movement, said: “I think people probably weren’t surprised, they thought that might be the recommendation.

“But the thing we need to emphasise is this isn’t the decision.Councillors are still in a position to overturn that, to reject the officer’s recommendation, and that’s obviously what we would hope they would do and that they will listen to the strength of feeling locally.”

Coun Keal insisted opponents of fracking were not driven by an “emotional response” and the objections to the proposal were made on planning grounds.

She also rejected the suggestion that the protests against fracking were being driven by campaigners from outside the area and predicted the majority of people at Friday’s meeting will be from North Yorkshire.

The geology of the area makes it a prime target for energy firms several others holding licences to explore for gas nearby.

Energy firm Ineos has already begun holding consultation meetings in the area and is expected to submit its own fracking applications later this year.

There is a long history of conventional gas production in the area and local support for the use of fracking including from Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake.

Lorraine Allanson, from the Friends of Ryedale Gas Exploration group, said: “I think this would be very good for the area economically.

“We live in an area that is one of the worst places for earning the living wage. People think Ryedale is very affluent but we have a lot of youngsters and they need opportunities to have a decent life and decent wage and have a sustainable existence in the area where they grew up.”

Mrs Allanson said similar objections were raised to the opening of the nearby Knapton Generating Station in the 1990s which is fuelled by gas from conventional wells drilled in the area.

She said: “They were 100 per cent wrong about that, they said then it would be all death and destruction and devastation and nothing has happened.”

Mrs Allanson said the number of objections were small compared to the number of people living in the area and insisted there was significant local support for the plans but residents were fearful of expressing their views publicly.