Councillors in Ryedale in North Yorkshire failed to back a motion opposing all fracking in the district. But they warned they would not support applications for fracking if public concerns about its potential damage were not resolved.
At an extra-ordinary meeting in Malton last night, councillors werre told a blanket ban would be illegal. The council’s solicitor said the proposal was so uncompromising that It could result in court action and costs of up to £250,000.
Concern about fracking has increased in Ryedale since 25th November last year when Third Energy announced it planned to apply for permission to frack its existing conventional well at Kirby Misperton, near Pickering. Campaign groups promised to fight the application.
David Davis, of Frack Free Ryedale said: “If Third Energy are granted planning permission Kirby Misperton will be just the first site of several super-sized well sites which will come to occupy the landscape of Ryedale. It will change the way of life forever in this largely rural community leaving a long lasting legacy of health and environmental problems.”
Last night’s meeting was organised to consider a motion by Liberal cllr John Clark. This called on the council to oppose all fracking in Ryedale. But the council’s solicitor, Anthony Winship, told the meeting:
The proposed motion on notice, would if passed by Council, amount to the adoption of a blanket policy of opposition to any matter related to fracking before hearing the facts of the case. This would to an unlawful fettering of discretion by the adoption of an over rigid policy.
It is appreciated that anti-fracking campaign groups wish local authorities to adopt a blanket policy of opposition to fracking. Members are advised that it is not in the gift of local authorities to adopt such a blanket policy.
Cllr Clark denied the motion was illegal. But councillors amended it to read:
The district council notes the extent of public concern about the potential damage to the environment caused by fracking. The council will not support applications for fracking or exploration preparatory to fracking if it is not satisfied that all such concerns have been resolved satisfactorily. It will discharge its function as a local planning authority on the merits of each planning application when it is asked to respond as a consultee. It will need be satisfied that risks posed by an application are outweighed by any advantages the proposed development would bring.
This amended motion, proposed by the council leader, Conservative Cllr Linda Cowling, was passed by 15 votes to 11. She said: “I have all the same concerns you have. When and if we say no to fracking I want that no to be able to stand up legally under scrutiny.”
But after the meeting, some opponents of fracking criticised the council. Steve Mason, on Facebook, said:
Ryedale district council..sleepwalking into oblivion for our district… Massive Respect to those who stood up to the fracking lobby…utterly disgusting the way the conservative councillors towed the party line. Not surprised though, A gutless and toothless council who will see Ryedale destroyed
Sue Gough addressed this to Cllr Cowling:
“By refusing to state either as an individual or a whole council what your stance on fracking actually is, you are leaving the people you are supposed to be representing feeling ignored and despised.”
And Karen Garrett said:
“It’s ok Linda Cowling saying all the councillors on her side were against fracking, why on earth didn’t they a) speak for themselves and put there own point across and b) state their reasons for voting the way they did if they are against?”
More meetings on fracking in Ryedale
- Third Energy Consultation, Thursday, 19th February, Kirby Misperton Village Hall, 2pm–7pm
- Frack Free Kirby Misperton coffee morning, Kirby Misperton Village Hall, Saturday 21st February 10am-12 noon.