Fracking fears in national park

FEARS of fracking and over-development hitting the North York Moors National Park (NYMNP) have been highlighted in a major new survey on its future.


They are among some 19 issues highlighted in the survey response from residents, along with calls for more opportunities to support young people to enable them to live and work in the park. The report, which goes before the authority today (Monday, October 3) also highlights fears of the impact of too many visitors, and what are described as “lenient” planning decisions.

Jo Swiers, performance consultant for the authority, said: “The survey has shown a level of concern about threats from development in the park which has not previously been recorded.”

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An area near the park’s boundary in Ryedale became the country’s first fracking site for five years after North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) approved plans to use the controversial mining method in May.

The proposal, which sparked huge controversy, was given the go-ahead at a site near Kirby Misperton and would be the first onshore site since 2011.

More than 80 speakers had told the county council’s planning committee of their fears over the possible impact on water, farming, tourism and the wider environment, with 32,000 signing a petition to overturn the decision. But Third Energy insisted the objections were based on misunderstandings.

Fracking, which involves the pumping of sand, water and chemicals into shale rock formations deep underground, frees up trapped gas deposits.

A British Geological Survey (BGS) study of shale gas across the north of England has previously suggested that the geology beneath the southern part of the park may contain these valuable resources, between 1,500 and 4,000 metres below the surface.

While the Government has banned drilling at the surface of protected areas, local authority planners had previously expressed concern that a ‘ring of steel’ could emerge just metres from official boundary lines. Earlier this year, they drew up a proposal for a fracking-free buffer zone to stop drilling from outside of the park boundaries.

Chris France, director of planning, said at the time the buffer zone would be similar those surrounding World Heritage sites.

He said: “We think the Government has missed the opportunity to say to the public ‘we are totally safeguarding those protected areas’ because it will still allow lateral fracking. We want to give the protected landscape in Yorkshire additional protection that the Government hasn’t managed to do at national level.”

The National Park survey, which was sent out to 11,800 households, drew 659 responses in total.

Other issues raised were rights of way for walkers, too much bracken encroaching onto the park’s thousands of acres of heather moorland, and lack of funding for the park’s work. However, one key concerns in previous surveys - too many second homes - received only a handful of concerns - four.

When asked to pin-point priorities the authority should focus on in the next four years, respondents said footpaths and public access, and educating young people about the park should be in the list along with conserving villages and historic features.

“Some 83 per cent of respondents were very or fairly satisfied with the helpfulness of park staff and 72 per cent with the ease of access to information,” said Ms Swiers, adding that the findings

will be used as evidence for a new business plan for the park.