Campaigners take legal action over fracking in Ryedale

Campaigners will apply for a judicial review today into the controversial decision of North Yorkshire County Council to grant a fracking firm permission to explore for shale gas.

Fracking protesters

Friends of the Earth (FOE) and Frack Free Ryedale claim the decision made by councillors on May 23 could be unlawful, claiming it was made without properly considering climate change.

FOE have instructed Leigh Day solicitors and David Wolfe QC.

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Simon Bowens, Yorkshire and Humber campaigner for FOE, said: “Shale gas is a dirty fossil fuel and it is the responsibility of North Yorkshire County Council to require a full assessment of the impact this fracking application would have on the climate.

“They failed to do that, and this is why we believe the courts need to consider the way that this decision was arrived at by seven councillors in May.”

FOE is arguing that the council did not consider the environmental impact of burning the gas to create electricity at its Knapton power plant. It also claims the council failed to secure long term financial protection against environmental damage.

The High Court will now decide whether a full hearing should take place, with the result known in a few weeks’ time.

During the two-day hearing in May, dozens of speakers voiced their concerns over the possible impact of fracking in Kirby Misperton, Ryedale - a process which uses sand and fluids under pressure to split rocks to allow gas to escape - on water, farming, tourism and the wider environment.

Third Energy, however, insisted that the objections were based on misunderstandings and scaremongering, and highlighted its record of mining gas in the area through conventional means.

David Davis, a retired chartered surveyor from the Ryedale village of Hovingham, said: “Concerned local residents have spent many hours considering the application, submitting evidence and raising their concerns in front of the planning committee.

“Despite all this, the county council have let the people of North Yorkshire down by failing to address these crucial factors.

“Our only recourse is to challenge this decision in the courts and hope that justice will be served.”

Mayor of Malton and Ryedale district councillor Paul Andrews welcomed the move. He said: “I hope it is successful. If the fracking application goes through it will set a precedent which will result in the industrialisation of the Vale of Pickering and other rural areas and will be absolutely catastrophic for the tourist trade.”

And retired vicar Jackie Cray from Kirby Misperton, said: “We believe the council has failed in its duty in two key areas, climate change as well as making sure there is enough money to clean up if anything went wrong.”

In a statement the council said councillors “gave proper regard to all material planning considerations” before approving Third Energy’s application. Law firm Bond Dickinson, which represents companies in the oil and gas sector, has been reported as saying “it is hard to see that there is any real legal merit” in the challenge. Third Energy said the council approved its application “after an extremely thorough investigation and hearing and we have confidence that the council followed all due processes.”