North Yorkshire County Council has granted permission to Third Energy to drill water monitoring boreholes as part of its plans to frack at a site in Ryedale.
The decision came despite calls for a deferral by opponents of fracking at the site near Kirby Misperton.
Frack Free Ryedale had argued that a decision would pre-determine the separate fracking application, which is out for consultation and due to be discussed by the county council later in the year. The group said this afternoon it was surprised and disappointed.
Third Energy had applied to install up to five boreholes to monitor methane levels in groundwater. Three would be around the existing KM8 well, which the company wants to frack. Another two would be at an adjoining wellsite.
Third Energy is required by the Infrastructure Act to carry out baseline monitoring of groundwater before fracking the well.
County council planners had recommended the application be approved. The council’s planning committee, meeting in Northallerton this afternoon, heard that the boreholes would provide information on groundwater quality in the immediate area of the well-site.
But Frack Free Ryedale had argued that the results would be meaningless because the groundwater could already be contaminated by 30 years of conventional gas operations at the site.
The three proposed boreholes at the KM8 site would be about 10m deep. The others would be 50m and 220m. Third Energy has estimated that drilling the boreholes would take up to two weeks and work would be between 7am-7pm.
David Davies, the planning spokesperson for Frack Free Ryedale, said: “We are very surprised and disappointed that this application has been approved.”
“This is just another example of our so-called ‘good neighbour’ Third Energy trying to fast-track the application at every opportunity.”
“One of the main problems surrounding fracking is the lack of robust baseline environmental data, and this is supposed to be a lesson learned by the UK – yet here there are clear shortcomings.”
“There are numerous technical issues with siting water-monitoring boreholes on a wellsite which has been producing conventional gas for the last 30 years.”
“Soil samples taken at the site also confirm there are already elevated levels of heavy metals, making any baseline levels of contamination effectively meaningless.”
“Furthermore, the Council has not received full advice from the Environment Agency regarding this crucial point and no permit has yet been issued by the Environment Agency. “Any monitoring data from these wells that may be used in future applications could be wide open to legal challenge on this basis.”
The group also argued that there was no point in drilling methane monitoring boreholes if the company wasn’t allowed to go on to frack. It said the decision was “a clear case of pre-determination”.