York & North Yorkshire

Kirby Misperton fracking permission postponed for financial checks

The KM8 well at Kirby Misperton was sunk in 2013 Image copyright PA
Image caption Third Energy want to frack at an existing well sunk in North Yorkshire in 2013

A company hoping to frack for shale gas is to face financial checks before it can go ahead, the business secretary has said.

Greg Clark said Third Energy would not receive consent to frack at Kirby Misperton, North Yorkshire, until those checks had been completed.

He did say, in a ministerial statement, he was satisfied the company had met all the technical requirements.

Third Energy has not yet responded to Mr Clark's statement.

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The government has not said how long those financial checks would take.

Third Energy was given local planning permission in 2016 to begin hydraulic fracturing at the existing well and had hoped to receive final permission from Mr Clark before the end of 2017. It began moving equipment on to the site in September.

Image copyright North Yorkshire Police
Image caption Protests have been taking place at Kirby Misperton since planning permission was granted

He said he was satisfied the company had met environmental protections, planning conditions and monitoring but said he wanted the same scrutiny applied to its financial position.

"I also consider that an equivalent assessment should be undertaken of the financial resilience of companies proposing to carry out hydraulic fracturing operations so that stakeholders can have confidence in the company's ability to meet its commitments," he said.

Third Energy's financial accounts are overdue, with Mr Clark saying they had not submitted accounts for 2016, missing the statutory deadline.

He said all companies wishing to frack would face similar checks.

Friends of the Earth, one of a number of groups which oppose fracking, said the government should stop backing the industry altogether.

Guy Shrubsole, a campaigner with the group, said: "This is further confirmation of the shaky foundations that this industry is built on.

"Third Energy are again late filing their accounts and questions remain about their ability to restore their fracking site if it goes wrong, as well as their wider financial health."

Third Energy's site at Kirby Misperton has been subject to numerous protests by those opposed to fracking since planning permission was granted.

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