Survey at Yorkshire fracking site over fears for rare bats

The company behind plans to start fracking in North Yorkshire has confirmed it will carry out a wildlife survey before starting operations after Friends of the Earth raised concerns that protected species of bats could be harmed by the controversial shale gas extraction process.

Protesters have been camped outside the proposed fracking site in North Yorkshire this week.

It comes as four people were charged over protests designed to stop company Third Energy’s lorries and specialist equipment entering the fracking site in the village of Kirby Misperton ahead of test-drilling starting later this year.

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Earlier this week, The Yorkshire Post reported that a lawyer for Friends of the Earth had written to North Yorkshire Police asking the force to investigate the potential presence of bats before fracking operations commence.

Disturbing bats or damaging their habitats is a criminal offence unless a mitigation licence from Natural England is issued.

The letter stated that development consent was given on assumption the area was devoid of bats but suggests it is now believed “there are significant numbers of protected bat species present”. North Yorkshire Police said it was considering its “next steps” on the matter.

A spokesman for Third Energy has now said another wildlife survey is to take place at the site but added there are no suitable places for bats to roost there.

“Third Energy is not able to comment on the specific content of the correspondence sent by Friends of the Earth to the North Yorkshire Police as the company was not copied,” he said.

“However, the protection of wildlife, including bats, was specifically addressed in the planning process. With operations at the well site starting in September, Third Energy will complete a further survey in accordance with the planning consent.

“It should be remember that the well site itself has been there since 1985 and provides no suitable places for bat roosts and limited foraging opportunities, because of the hard-standing and existing well site infrastructure.”

It comes after two men and two women were charged with obstructing a highway in relation to the ongoing protests in Kirby Misperton. The four will appear in court next month. Five more people were arrested yesterday, with one female protester taken to hospital after complaining of neck and shoulder pain.

Third Energy intends to conduct around eight weeks of testing whether the controversial process of extracting gas from shale is commercially viable.

The company has six existing well sites in Kirby Misperton, Malton and Pickering where it has said it may consider “further appraisal activity”.

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