A firm with ambitions to frack for gas under North Yorkshire has had its proposals to extend permissions on its existing conventional gas wells recommended for approval, despite a host of objections.
North Yorkshire County councillors are to decide whether to approve Third Energy’s proposals to continue the gas extraction operations it has been running for decades across the Vale of Pickering, where the industry began in 1985 with the granting of consent for exploration under licence.
Third Energy is asking the authority to continue operations until 2035 at numerous well sites, including ones at Kirby Misperton, Great Habton, Marishes and Pickering, and a pipeline linking the wells to the existing operational Knapton gas-fired electricity generating station, which opened in 1995.
The power station is capable of supplying up to 41.5MW of electricity - enough to power up to 40,000 homes.
Third Energy was planning to carry out fracking at its Kirby Misperton site in 2017 but, following large protests and calls for a financial resilience review by the Government, eventually withdrew the bulk of its fracking equipment.
Since then the site has effectively lain dormant, though the planning consent to frack is valid until 2026. In November, the government halted shale gas extraction – or fracking – in England amid fears about earthquakes.
The proposals have attracted objections from local and national campaign groups, such as Frack Free Ryedale and Friends of the Earth, as well as residents and the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.
Objectors have claimed the operations would threaten air and water quality, harm biodiversity, create high levels of noise and traffic, hit the local economy and tourism, industrialise the countryside and affect climate change ambitions by relying on fossil fuels.
Outlining its opposition to the applications, a Ryedale District Council spokesman said Third Energy had justified its proposals by claiming that it would help to ensure a coherent network of infrastructure is in place to support hydraulic fracturing in the future.
The spokesman for the authority said against a context of what it understood to be “a substantial decline in conventional gas production in the Vale of Pickering”, the firm had not supplied sufficient information to justify the 17-year extension of operations.
An officer’s report to the county council’s planning committee states independent and impartial expert opinions of the proposals “have accepted the findings of the applicant’s experts and are satisfied that the mitigation of the effects with regard to safeguarding the both the natural and the water environment, amenity, traffic and highways are appropriate and proportionate…”
The report concludes that the proposals “seek solely the continuity of the operations and do not propose any other changes”.
It states planning conditions to safeguard the natural environment, the amenity of local residents as well as the control of vehicle use associated with the proposals to continue operations “are all capable of rendering the proposals acceptable in land-use planning terms”.
The report states the planning officer’s view that “it has not been found that there are any material adverse impacts that would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits”.