Approval has been given to the application by UK firm Third Energy to extract shale gas, the first to be granted in England since the ban was lifted. North Yorkshire County Council approved, by a vote of 7-4, Third Energy’s bid to extract shale gas at its KM8 site near Kirby Misperton in Ryedale, North Yorkshire.
The plan is to test for shale gas at the existing two-mile-deep well near the village, where Third Energy has been pumping gas to its Knapton electricity generating station for two decades, in 2013 the well was made deep enough to exploit the Bowland shale.
Members of the committee were greeted by placard-waving protesters as they arrived at the meeting at County Hall in Northallerton. In a letter read out to the crowd, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood said “We are fighting one of the most important fights in the UK today – the fight to keep the country frack-free”.
Independent Ryedale councillor Lyndsay Burr said there was a danger the area would become known for fracking rather than tourism, and told councillors on the committee “Do not devastate our area. Please refuse this application for the sake of this beautiful area and our residents”.
However the recommendation from planners was that the plan should be approved but with acknowledgement that the majority of representations received in consultation were objections. Of the 4,420 individual representations, just 36 were in support of the application. The report noted there was a “national policy support for the development of a shale gas industry in this country and this is an important material consideration”.
Speaking before the decision had been made, Third Energy’s chief executive, Rasik Valand said “The planning officer’s positive recommendation comes after very detailed scrutiny of the application by the planning officer and statutory consultees and taking into account representations by members of the public and other groups,”
Once the approval was given, the chief executive acknowledged the “huge responsibility” Third Energy had been given, saying “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”.
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