Fracking in England: Malton mayor makes legal challenge
A town mayor is taking legal action against planned government changes to how fracking applications are handled.
Business Secretary Greg Clark announced measures in May to help speed up decisions on planning proposals connected to hydraulic fracturing.
Paul Andrews, the mayor of Malton, North Yorkshire, said the move would deprive local councils of control.
The government said it would ensure "the strongest environmental safeguards remain in place".
A government statement referred to recent decisions on shale exploration planning applications remaining "disappointingly slow", with new measures being announced to "facilitate timely decisions" in England.
Under the plans mentioned in the statement, preliminary drilling could be classed as permitted development - the same law that allows people to build a small conservatory.
Mr Andrews, Ryedale town councillor and Habton parish councillor, was advised the statement was "unlawful" after seeking legal advice and has instructed a solicitor to start proceedings for judicial review.
He said it was his "duty" to Malton and the nearby parish of Kirby Misperton, where protests have been held since fracking plans were passed in 2016.
Fracking in North Yorkshire
Fracking is drilling into the earth and directing a high-pressure water mixture at the rock in order to release gas inside.
Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well.
The term fracking refers to how the rock is fractured apart by the high pressure mixture.
Gas company Third Energy was granted permission to begin hydraulic fracturing at Kirby Misperton in May 2016, at an existing well sunk in 2013.
Anti-fracking protestors gathered day and night until March, when the company moved some equipment from the site.
Third Energy is awaiting final consent to frack from the government, with a new autumn timescale announced.
Mr Andrews said fracking would "industrialise the countryside and destroy the rural economy".
"Somebody has to stand up against the bullies in government and the greed of the oil and gas industry," he said.
Steve Mason, from Frack Free United, said: "We hope the legal action has the desired effect and halts the government's plans for fracking in its tracks.
"If the statement is allowed to proceed unchecked, the consequences for Ryedale and Yorkshire will be dire."
A Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: "No-one benefits from delays in planning decisions and we are committed to planning reforms to ensure quicker decision making on shale applications.
"We will make sure the strongest environmental safeguards remain in place. Any proposed permitted development right would not apply to exploration in sensitive areas, including National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty."