YP Comment: Fracking decision defies local concerns

Protestors against fracking gathering outside Preston County Hall. The Government has given the go-ahead for fracking at a site in Lancashire, overturning the county council's decision on the scheme. Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Protestors against fracking gathering outside Preston County Hall. The Government has given the go-ahead for fracking at a site in Lancashire, overturning the county council's decision on the scheme. Peter Byrne/PA Wire
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Traditional rivalries have been put to one side in recent months as campaigners from Yorkshire and Lancashire unite in their opposition to fracking.

Despite their best efforts, the results haven’t been what they wished for. Months after a single well in Ryedale was approved for fracking, four more have now been given the green light on the Fylde.

The move marks a major escalation in the scale of exploratory fracking in the UK. A council decision on an application for exploratory drilling at Misson, near Doncaster, is due next month. Meanwhile, Third Energy’s approval to frack in North Yorkshire has been held up by a legal challenge from Friends of the Earth. The sense, however, is that it is merely delaying the inevitable.

The fact is that the Government remains wholly committed to fracking as a potential solution to Britain’s energy crisis, one that has been triggered by years of muddled thinking and an over-reliance on imported gas. With coal-fired power stations, including Ferrybridge, closing to meet the country’s carbon reduction obligations, the need to find alternative energy sources is made even more pressing.

That is not to say, however, that the concerns of environmental campaigners and many of those living near the sites in question can be lightly dismissed.

The potential impact of these drilling operations on every aspect of local life, including the health of nearby residents and the value of their homes, is hotly debated. The idea that Sajid Javid, the Communities Secretary, can ride roughshod over the decisions of individual councils also calls into question the value of local democracy.

Nor is there certainty over the value of shale extraction and whether it will deliver gas at a cheaper price than that currently used by UK households. And how does this square with the Paris climate agreement – which will require countries to effectively phase out fossil fuels entirely later this century?

At present there are many questions that still remain over the fracking process. As such, it must continue to be subject to the utmost scrutiny.

May’s reality check

Homegrown NHS a long way off

MANY will have been pleased to hear Theresa May talk about “British jobs for British people” in her speech to the Conservative Party conference this week.

Her target of creating a homegrown NHS, ending the reliance on expertise from overseas, is a laudable one. The big question is whether it is realistic.

New figures suggest the number of EU nationals joining NHS hospitals has soared, while the proportion of British nurses joining has dropped.

Against such a backdrop, it is ill-advised for the Prime Minister to suggest, as she has, that foreign hospital staff may be asked to leave the country once enough British doctors, nurses and midwives are trained up to replace them.

All the indications are that it will take an inordinately long time to reach this point – if it is ever reached at all.

So while it is absolutely right that the Government should redouble its efforts to encourage more Britons to pursue a career in the NHS, it would be quite wrong to belittle the crucial contribution of those from other countries.

Overseas workers have been a key component of the health service since its inception, and given the likelihood that we will continue to be reliant on them for years to come it would be unwise to dissuade these individuals from coming here due to the threat of being summarily expelled further down the line.

Lighting the way

Cities step out of the shadows

THE night time economy makes a sizeable contribution to the wealth of Yorkshire’s towns and cities, one that should not be underestimated.

However, all too frequently those who might otherwise venture into these areas after dark are put off by the heavy drinking culture – complete with all its unsavoury by-products – that so often pervades them.

It’s why events such as Leeds Light Night are to to be welcomed. Taking place last night and tonight, the idea is to show the city’s centre in a new, fun light with everything from giant glowing dandelions to a 100ft digital waterfall forming part of a quirky arts programme that appeals to those of all ages.

Illuminating York, which takes place later this month, was the template for these kinds of events, which this week also sees Bradford celebrate City Park with a spectactular light show.

It’s good to see our cities waking up to the fact that their centres should work harder to attract a wider range of people once dusk has fallen, especially families.