York & North Yorkshire

Kirby Misperton fracking: Protest groups considering legal action

Protesters outside meeting Image copyright John Giles/PA
Image caption More than 4,300 objections to the application to frack were sent to North Yorkshire County Council

Anti-fracking campaigners are considering a possible legal challenge after plans to begin the controversial technique were approved by councillors.

North Yorkshire County Council voted 7-4 in favour of Third Energy's application to extract shale gas at a site near Kirby Misperton in Ryedale.

Friends of the Earth and Frack Free Ryedale said they would be seeking legal advice and launched a People's Declaration in a bid to stop fracking.

Third Energy says the process is safe.

Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at rock to release the gas inside.

Opponents say it can cause water contamination, earthquakes and noise and traffic pollution.

Third Energy's application was passed by the council's planning committee on Monday.

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Media captionThe BBC's John Moylan explains what the fracking vote means for Kirby Misperton - in 20 seconds

More than 4,300 objections to the application were received and 100 people gave evidence during the two-day hearing. Just 36 representations in support of the application were received.

Ryedale District Councillor Di Keal, of Frack Free Ryedale, told BBC Radio York: "People are very down, people are very upset - there were tears yesterday. But I know people round here, they will stand up and they will fight. This battle does go on.

"We will be looking to take legal opinion on what we can do."

Friends Of The Earth campaigner Simon Bowens said the organisation would "consider all options available, and that includes judicial review", but would not expand on what any legal challenge might focus on.

Both groups are urging people to support their campaign by signing a Public Declaration, which states that "we remain opposed to fracking in Yorkshire, in Britain, and across the world".

Protesters have also raised concerns that passing the application will open the floodgates to hundreds of other wells.

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Media captionThe moment the application was granted, as seen from both inside and outside the council building. Vote footage North Yorkshire County Council

But planning committee chairman Peter Sowray said: "This planning application has nothing to do with any more wells. It was just about the test stimulation of the one well."

He said some opposition was based on "emotions" rather than "genuine planning reasons", and he was confident in the safety assurances given by Third Energy and the Environment Agency.

Since the application was passed, Conservative councillor Cliff Trotter, who voted in favour of fracking, said he had received intimidating emails.

He told BBC Radio 5 Live: "Yes, a few. But that's par for the course, I suppose."

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Media captionThe BBC's David Shukman explains how fracking works

Third Energy operations director John Dewar said he was "absolutely confident" that the operation - called KM8 - would run according to plan. He could not say whether fracking there would be commercially viable.

"What we can't predict at this moment in time how much [gas] will flow and how long it will flow for," he said.

"We do know the gas is down there and I'm absolutely confident we will be able to fracture each of the five zones safely, and then we just have to wait and see what quantity and what rate of gas comes back."

The onshore energy industry has welcomed the decision.

The chief executive of UK Onshore Oil and Gas, Ken Cronin, said fracking could help to combat climate change.

He said: "What we've seen in the US is a massive reduction in emissions coming from the electricity sector, as a result of a shift from coal to gas.

"We've also seen a very significant shift from coal to gas in this country over the course of the last six months.

"And that's partly down to the North Sea, partly down to on-shore and also partly down to renewables."

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