We fight on, say fracking opponents after Yorkshire approval
Opponents of fracking vowed to continue their fight following the approval by North Yorkshire County Council of what could be the first fracked well in the UK for over five years.
At just before 7pm last night, the council’s planning committee voted by seven to four in favour of Third Energy’s application to frack its existing well at Kirby Misperton in Ryedale.
The decision, after two long days of evidence and discussion, came despite more than 4,000 objections and a petition of more than 2,500 signatures.
Campaigners against the proposal, more than 70 of whom addressed the committee, promised the fight wasn’t over. There was talk of judicial review and civil disobedience. Disappointed opponents were quick to sign a “people’s declaration” against fracking.
Third Energy’s supporters, looking tired and relieved, were careful not to celebrate openly in the corridors of County Hall in Northallerton
Ken Cronin of the industry body, UKOOG, said:
“This is one step in the right direction. We still have more applications to put in for more wells to drill. I would not over estimate its significance. There was a long hard road to get here.”
Third Energy’s chief executive, Rasik Valland, said:
“This approval is not as a victory, but is a huge responsibility. We will have to deliver on our commitment, made to the committee and to the people of Ryedale, to undertake this operation safely and without impacting on the local environment.”
In the opponent camp, there’s no doubting the significance of the approval. No well has been fracked in the UK since 22 May 2011. That was when Cuadrilla suspended operations at its Preese Hall well in Lancashire after fracking caused a series of earth tremors. Cuadrilla’s plans to go back to Lancashire are still waiting the result of a planning appeal.
The inspector will produce her recommendation in early July and the final decision will be made by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. So the jury’s still out on which company will be the first frack in the UK since 2011.
Third Energy said it doesn’t expect to see any activity soon at Kirby Misperton. The company has to comply with over 40 planning and environmental permit conditions and get final approval from the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
And in campaign groups, local and national, work is already underway to find new ways to oppose this and future applications.
Yesterday evening, Sue Gough, from Little Barugh, launched a "people’s declaration" opposing fracking. She told the crowd that had waited all day for the result:
“Today we resolve to continue to fight to remain free from fracking, to protect our communities, our beautiful countryside, our air and water, and to protect the future of the planet. We ask people across the country to join us by supporting this declaration.”
She said: “We are extremely disappointed that North Yorkshire County Council has not listened to the overwhelming wishes of the locally elected representatives of Ryedale and local people and has approved Third Energy's application to frack in our county.
“This decision is not in our name. We know that Third Energy and their backers Barclays bank are the only ones that stand to benefit from these fracking plans. This application would put at risk Yorkshire's beautiful landscape and the tourism industry that inspires millions of visitors each year and supports thousands of jobs.
“We have a positive democratic vision for Yorkshire and the UK with thriving rural economies, clean air and water, producing the green energy like solar power we need to protect our children's future, and creating the thousands of green jobs along with it.
“We urge and will support the Government to develop a balanced long term energy policy that will achieve our globally agreed climate change targets.”
Cllr John Blackie, a late substitute on the planning committee (pictured below), made the strongest criticism of the application during the meeting. He told councillors:
“I expected greater scrutiny and challenge from this planning authority. We have been too easily satisfied and we haven’t gone the extra mile to ensure that this stacks up. I don’t think it does.”
After the decision he told opponents:
‘”I am very sorry that you are going home tonight disappointed”
He urged them to fight every future application with the same passion.
“The next time around I will be there supporting you all the way.”
Fellow county councillor, Lyndsay Burr, who represents Kirby Misperton, said: “This is not the end. We will continue to fight. Ryedale wil not be known as the fracking capital of Yorkshire.”
Simon Bowens, the Yorkshire campaigner for Friends of the Earth (left), said:
“That’s one well. One well is where it stops. We will struggle and we will fight to ensure that that is all.
“We will regather, we will bring ourselves together to make sure that we build the movement community by community, street by street, house by house to make sure that not just four thousand people, not just twenty thousand people but the whole of North Yorkshire is with us in our struggle to keep our beautiful county the way we like it – clean, healthy, economically vibrant with a great quality of life for the people who live there."
Legal teams from Friends of the Earth and the campaign group, Frack Free Ryedale, said they would be looking at how the decision was made to see if there were grounds for judicial review.
Ian Conlon, of Frack Free Ryedale, said:
“The council made mistakes. It is not over yet. We will fight on. We have an opinion from a barrister. We will be guided by our legal team over the next few weeks. There are a lot of things that we are concerned about the process."
“There are a lot of people talking about civil disobedience: that’s families and local residents. Families are determined to stop this.
“It has come down to fight or flight. People are already starting to leave Ryedale. People don’t want Ryedale to become a sacrifice zone."
Cllr Paul Andrew, deputy mayor of Malton, urged people to get political.
“We have to be prepared to put ourselves up for election. If we won’t they will walk all over us.”
A campaigner against Cuadrilla’s plans to frack in Lancashire, Gayzer Frackman, said:
“Do not believe that the decision has been made to frack. Yorkshire will stop fracking. We will united the roses. We will stop fracking.”
Ruth Hayhurst is the only journalist reporting from the UK fracking frontlines. Daily reports at DrillOrDrop.com