Campaigners blast 'desperate' tactics on eve of fracking meeting

AN open letter from an energy industry body appealing to councillors to give the go-ahead to fracking in North Yorkshire has been branded 'desperate' by campaigners against the proposal.

The issue of fracking has triggered protests in Ryedale

Opponents of the application to frack at a site close to Kirby Misperton, between Pickering and Malton claimed the energy industry had failed to convince local people the process was safe.

The campaigners are urging county councillors to ignore their own planning advice and refuse planning permission to frack at the site known as KM8.

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North Yorkshire County Council’s planning committee will begin to consider the application on Friday although the meeting is expected to stretch into Monday because of the volume of people who have asked to speak.

If councillors give the green light it will be the first use of the controversial mining method in the region with other companies already considering submitting their own applications for other sites in the area.

Earlier this week, Third Energy, the company behind the Kirby Misperton took out full page adverts setting out their accompanied by a letter from the Onshore Energy Services Group urging the area not to “squander what could be a once in a generation opportunity to boost the region’s economic fortunes.”

Ryedale district councillor Di Keal, one of the leading figures in the campaign opposing the application, said: “The oil and gas industry appears to be throwing its money around in a final desperate attempt to buy support for the fracking application at KM8.

“They obviously realise that they have no public support for the application among local people or businesses, and are trying to buy favours at the eleventh hour.”

Third Energy insists it has put extensive plans in place to address concerns raised during consultations with people living nearby.

The company also argues that many of the concerns raised about the potential impact on health and the environment come from overseas examples that bear no comparison to how fracking will work in the UK where there is much tougher regulation.

Support has been expressed locally for the application, in particular through the Friends of Ryedale Gas Exploration group.

But opponents insist they have the weight of local opinion behind them.

Ian Conlan, of Frack Free Ryedale, said: “Third Energy’s publicity campaign for KM8 has been a spectacular failure.

“After all their carefully managed public consultations, liaison meetings, leaflets and press ads, they only received 32 letters of support, set against nearly 4,000 objections.

“It shows that the public can see through the industry’s carefully managed spin, and are very aware of the threat that fracking poses to their health, the environment, the rural economy and local jobs.”

Fracking tests were carried out on the Fylde coast five years ago but, despite intensive Government support, attempts to use the method in this country have struggled to get off the ground.Lancashire County Council rejected two applications from exploration firm Cuadrilla last year although both are now the subjects of appeals.

Protestors are expected to gather outside County Hall in Northallerton on Friday.