Yorkshire county has become the new focal point of the UK fracking debate after Cuadrilla’s planning applications in Lancashire were defeated over two weeks ago.
Third Energy’s application to hydraulically stimulate the well at the Kirby Misperton site near Pickering, submitted at the end of May, is the latest fracking proposal pending a decision from North Yorkshire County Council.
However, a freedom of information request by members of Frack Free Ryedale last week revealed that a letter had been sent to Third Energy by North Yorkshire County Council in June highlighting a number of deficiencies in their submitted documentation, which resulted in the application being returned to the company.
The nine-page letter shows that some parts of the application and other supporting information were missing. But Third energy claims these were a “small number of minor errors”, and that the application process is still ongoing.
And, while the company has dismissed issues highlighted in the government’s unredacted report on the impacts of fracking on rural economies, newly elected local Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake, has been busy trying to address the concerns of local residents.
Hollinrake recently attended a meeting where 44 of the 50 locals present were against fracking, while the other six had an open mind on the issue.
Since then, he has urged the government during a parliamentary debate on fracking to separate fracking sites from each other, with six-mile “buffer zones” to stop rural areas becoming too industrialised.
He said that Third Energy’s long-term plans to potentially drill up to 950 wells in an area comprising less than a third of his constituency could ruin the local countryside.
Local groups are also bombarding the local papers with letters on the subject. But, as Frack Free Ryedale continues its campaign against shale gas development in the area, another group has popped up to promote fracking.
Friends of Ryedale Gas Exploration (FORGE) was founded last month to support the gas industry in the area. So far the Facebook group has 88 members.
The group was established by Lorraine Allanson, who runs holiday cottages and a bed and breakfast four miles from Third Energy’s site.
At a national level, the government continues its push for fracking despite the industry’s latest setbacks.
It was announced in the Conservative government budget last week that the climate change levy exemption for renewable energy production will be removed. This, accompanied by the tax breaks for the UK oil and gas industry introduced in the previous coalition budget in March, generates a much more favourable climate for the fracking industry.
In addition, despite agreeing to ban fracking in national parks in the Infrastructure Bill, ministers yesterday put forward legislation allowing fracking to take place underneath national parks – so long as drilling rigs are stationed just outside their boundaries.
Amber Rudd, the secretary of state for energy and climate change, has said in the past that a ban on fracking beneath national parks would “not be practical” because it could “unduly constrain the industry”.
Finally, the government is looking to accept an industry request that could see fracking applications fast-tracked by 12 months. Currently, the industry must obtain planning permission for water-testing boreholes, which can delay the start of fracking by up to a year.
But the government is hoping to grant the industry “permitted development rights” to drill boreholes at potential extraction sites before the actual fracking process is approved. The Department for Communities and Local Government said in a consultation document in March that allowing boreholes under permitted development would “avoid needless delay in bringing forward new projects”.
Photo: Colin Grice via Geography Creative Commons