Yorkshire council urged to protect against fracking impact

PROTECTION for vital industries and imposing minimum distances between drilling wells should be considered in North Yorkshire as fracking companies target the county, according to a new report.

An anti-fracking poster in Kirby Misperton

It calls on North Yorkshire County Council to consider the collective impact of fracking wells across the county as well as the merits of individual applications.

The report, prepared by county councillors after an inquiry into fracking, suggests imposing “buffer zones” to prevent fracking taking place too close to the area’s national parks could be difficult under planning laws.

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But it argues that there may by a role for demanding minimum distances between fracking sites to prevent an area becoming blighted.

The county councillors recommend the authority’s policies on fracking include protection for the “existing economy”, such as farming and tourism.

The report says: “A proliferation of well sites in a concentrated area could impact negatively upon tourism – one of North Yorkshire’s key industries.

“Our environment is a key asset in encouraging tourism to North Yorkshire.

“Tourists like residents will also have concerns about contamination of the water supply and other pollutants arising from shale gas operations.”

The report calls for close monitoring of health and the environment around fracking sites so the impact can be monitored.

It also suggests the Government should force companies engaged in fracking to invest in bonds that can be used to pay the costs of any clean-up from fracking.

North Yorkshire’s position on a rock formation known as the Bowland Shale has made it one of the targets for energy companies considering using the controversial fracking mining method.

So far, Third Energy has submitted the only planning application to frack in the county centred on land near the village of Kirby Misperton, between Pickering and Malton.

The application was submitted in July but a date for it to go to the county council’s planning committee has yet to be set after a series of requests for further information.

The Government, which has enthusiastically backed fracking, has previously warned councils that if they delay decisions on applications then ministers will take over.

Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom this week expressed the Government’s continued frustration at the slow progress of fracking applications through the planning system.

Stressing she was not commenting on the specific application in North Yorkshire, Mrs Leadsom told The Yorkshire Post: “I think the key thing about shale applications is that for the local council to look at the application should take, like any other application, the sort of 16 weeks statutory timeframe.

“Obviously what we are really keen to do is to make sure that people feel they have enough information but in truth it is the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency who are doing the specific studies of the location of the proposal and the potential impacts on the local community. So it shouldn’t have to take protracted periods of time but obviously it is a local planning matter and we don’t want to comment on that and it’s very important local people get to have their say but equally the statutory timeframe for considering applications is 16 weeks and that should be achieveable.”