Fracking in England: Mayor's legal challenge fails

Paul Andrews, Mayor of MaltonImage source, Paul andrews
Image caption,
Mayor of Malton Paul Andrews said a ministerial statement made on fracking has "no democratic legitimacy"

A town mayor has failed in his legal bid to challenge government policy on 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.

In the High Court, Paul Andrews, the mayor of Malton, North Yorkshire, argued it "fundamentally changes" guidance to local planning authorities.

But Judge Justice Holgate found his judicial review bid was "unarguable".

Marc Willers QC said, on behalf of Mr Andrews, the written ministerial statement was unlawful as the government had not carried out an assessment on the effect of fracking on the environment or consulted over its introduction.

He claimed it represented "a material change in planning policy".

The statement had "given rise to confusion and uncertainty", he added.

Image source, PA

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 protesters 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.

But the judge ruled that "the policy statement in question simply refers to two definitions of fracking... which should be considered by planning authorities when drawing up their developing plans".

Following the hearing, Mr Andrews, a Ryedale town councillor and Habton parish councillor, said: "I'm obviously disappointed and I'm going to consider an appeal."

He raised more than £24,000 to fund the legal action after gas company Third Energy was granted permission in May 2016 to begin hydraulic fracturing at the nearby parish of Kirby Misperton, where protests have been held.

Under the plans mentioned in the ministerial statement, preliminary drilling could be classed as permitted development - the same law that allows people to build a small conservatory.

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