YP Letters: What happened to democracy over the fracking issue?

From: Chris Whitwood, Deputy Leader, Yorkshire Party.

Who should have the final say on fracking?

ON Saturday, the streets of York were thronging with campaigners – flags flying, placards held high, voices raised in protest against what many believed to be the desecration of our democracy.

The event that triggered the march was the decision by North Yorkshire County Council to allow Third Energy to extract shale gas in Kirby Misperton despite the objections of large numbers of local residents.

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Ever since the UK-wide ban was repealed in 2012, fracking – the process of pumping high-pressure fluid into rock fractures in order to extract shale gases – has been a contentious issue.

The research around the long-term effects of fracking, particularly in the UK, is divided. I am all for advocating the benefits of new technology, but when it comes to a process that may cause earthquakes, you will have to forgive me for being hesitant until a fairly hefty amount of evidence has shown otherwise. In the beer garden of a nearby pub shortly after the protest, a woman, who has been a York resident all her life, summed up why she and her husband took part: “Well, we weren’t asked about fracking, were we? They just want to go ahead and do it. What happened to democracy?”

And therein lies the crux of the matter. On this, as with many other issues that affect our region, there was no large-scale public debate; no democratic forum with which to weigh up the evidence.

The issue of climate change and how we generate energy is one of most important issue of our generation. Whatever you believe, the decision whether to frack in Yorkshire must be made by the people of Yorkshire – openly, democratically and based on clear, scientific evidence. Where is our voice?

It is easy to dismiss such protests as nimbyism (Not In My Back Yard). The Yorkshire Party represents people for and against fracking, but there is one thing that we can all agree on. Yorkshire already generates 16 per cent of the UK’s electricity and as we move towards a zero-carbon future, our region must be equipped with the powers to make the choices that are best for Yorkshire, our environment, economy and people.

Without a regional parliament with meaningful powers, similar to those in Scotland, Wales and even Greater London, the views of the people of Yorkshire will continue to fall on deaf ears.

In short, the best way of deciding how to generate power for the people is by giving power to the people.