Politics

Tory MPs in top new drilling areas resistant to fracking

Thirsk and Malton constituency and new licences
Map credit: 
UKOGL interactive map
(Blue areas are new licenced blocks within the constituency, pink areas are currently licenced)

The Thirsk and Malton area of North Yorkshire could become the drilling capital of the UK following the release of new oil and gas licences. But its MP has said on his website he’s currently against fracking.

Other MPs in some of the most newly licensed areas also appear resistant to fracking.

Analysis by DrillOrDrop.com reveals that the Thirsk and Malton parliamentary constituency will host all or part of 25 new licence blocks announced under the 14th round last month.

This is more new licences than any other constituency. Only neighbouring East Yorkshire comes close, with 14 new blocks.

Thirsk and Malton, which already has another 13 blocks from previous licence rounds, is currently at the centre of the debate about fracking. Third Energy has applied for planning permission to carry out hydraulic fracturing at one of its existing wells at Kirby Misperton.

Kevin Hollinrake

Kevin Hollinrake

The constituency’s Conservative MP, Kevin Hollinrake, has said on his website he is against fracking until he receives what he describes as satisfactory answers to questions on independent water monitoring, well decommissioning and industrialisation of the countryside.

Mr Hollinrake, who is visiting fracking sites in Pennsylvania this month, told The Yorkshire Post that Third Energy might drill 950 wells in less than a third of the constituency. He said: “[This] would require hundreds of thousands of lorry movements, all in one of the country’s most beautiful counties, with an economy dependent on agriculture and tourism.”

During a parliamentary debate in June, Mr Hollinrake called for “truly independent” monitoring, a minimum distance between production sites, methods to recycle water to reduce traffic and blight compensation for people directly affected.

He said there needed to be “a clear willingness to stop if lives and livelihoods are affected to unacceptable levels and a clear answer to the question of who cleans up and who pays if the worst happens.”

From left: MPs Sir Greg Knight, Antoinette Sandbach, Sir Edward Leigh, Andrew Turner

From left: MPs Sir Greg Knight, Antoinette Sandbach, Sir Edward Leigh, Andrew Turner

Mr Hollinrake’s parliamentary neighbour in East Yorkshire is the Conservative MP Sir Greg Knight, whose constituency has 14 whole or partial new blocks. He told the Hull Daily Mail last month he was concerned that Cuadrilla had been granted a licence for the Yorkshire Wolds. He said:

“I think it would be highly improper if we were to develop any industry in the Wolds.”

“I would hope the planning authority in due course takes into account this is an area of outstanding natural beauty. I would be very concerned if this was to proceed further.”

Another Conservative, Antoinette Sandbach, has 8 new blocks her in Cheshire constituency of Eddisbury. The former Welsh Assembly Member welcomed the moratorium on fracking in Wales.

She said: “The views of the local people likely to benefit from fracking, or who will be affected by fracking must be paramount and a moratorium with community right to opt-in to support fracking will empower people.”

The Conservative Sir Edward Leigh, in Gainsborough, which has 7 new blocks, told the Scunthorpe Telegraph it would be foolish not to explore for shale gas. But he said local planning committees and local residents must have the final say. On his website he said he would be “happy to back up all well-reasoned objections” to fracking in the constituency.

“It is vital that nothing takes place if local people are deeply and strongly opposed.”

Andrew Turner, the Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight, has 5 new licences, covering about half his constituency. He voted against the Government on fracking in a debate on the Infrastructure Bill in February this year (our report).

In contrast, the Chancellor, George Osborne, one of the strongest supporters of fracking in government, has six new licence blocks in his Tatton constituency.

Other findings

DrillOrDrop.com has examined details of all 159 licence blocks in England announced by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) on 18th August 2015. No blocks have been announced yet in Wales or Scotland.

Our analysis also revealed:

  • The top 8 most licensed constituencies all have Conservative MPs
  • At least 15 towns are now completely licensed for oil and gas exploration
  • Three National Parks and a World Heritage Site include licence blocks within their boundaries
  • 73 licence blocks contain at least one European wildlife site designated to protect rare or threatened species

The OGA has confirmed which companies have an exclusive right, subject to permissions, to drill for oil and gas in 27 licence blocks (details here). Another 132 are subject to a consultation this month and the successful companies are expected to be announced later in the year.

We have compiled information about each block with details about the possible implications of drilling on local towns and wildlife sites.

Click here for our interactive map and portal to the 14th Round

Politics

Of the parliamentary constituencies that wholly or partially host new licence blocks, 76 are Conservative, 56 are Labour and 2 are Lib Dem. The top 8 constituencies for new licences all have Conservative MPs:

  1. Thirsk and Malton, 25 licence blocks: MP Kevin Hollinrake, (Conservative)
  2. East Yorkshire, 14 licence blocks: MP Sir Greg Knight (Conservative)
  3. Louth and Horncastle, 10 licence blocks: MP Victoria Atkins (Conservative)
  4. Scarborough and Whitby, 8 licence blocks: MP Robert Goodwill (Conservative)
  5. Eddisbury, Cheshire 8 licence blocks: MP Antoinette Sandbach (Conservative)
  6. Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, 7 licence blocks: MP Sir Edward Leigh (Conservative)
  7. South Dorset, 7 licence blocks: MP Richard Drax (Conservative)
  8. Selby and Ainsty, North Yorkshire, 7 licence blocks: MP Nigel Adams (Conservative)

Senior Conservatives whose constituencies host new licence blocks include:

  1. Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, Tatton, 6 licence blocks
  2. Chief Whip, Mark Harper, Forest of Dean, 4 blocks
  3. Oliver Letwin, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, West Dorset, 2 blocks
  4. Small Businesses Minister, Anna Soubry, Broxstowe, 2 blocks
  5. Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, Loughborough, 1 block
  6. Transport Secretary, Patrick Mcloughlin, Derbyshire Dales, 1 block

Two of the Labour leadership contenders have new licences in their constituencies. Yvette Cooper, a supporter of fracking, has 4 licences in her constituency of Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, while fracking sceptic, Andy Burnham (Leigh), has 2 licences.

Two former party leaders also have licences in their constituencies. Ed Miliband (Doncaster North) has 5 and Nick Clegg (Sheffield Hallam) has 4.

Administrative areas

North Yorkshire is the administrative area with the largest number of licence blocks. It has 33 blocks wholly or partially in its boundaries followed by Lincolnshire with 20.

  1. North Yorkshire 33
  2. Lincolnshire 20
  3. Nottinghamshire 18
  4. East Yorkshire 16
  5. Lancashire 11
  6. Cheshire East, Dorset and Derbyshire 9 each
  7. Somerset and Rotherham 7 each
  8. Wakefield, Cheshire West and Chester, Doncaster 6 each
  9. Blackburn with Darwen, Barnsley, Isle of Wight, Sheffield and Gloucestershire 5 each
  10. Cumbria, Wiltshire and York 4 each

Last month, the Government said it required planning authorities to decide drilling applications within 16 weeks and might take over decisions from councils which failed to meet this target.

National Parks and world heritage sites

Four National Parks have all or part of new licence blocks, as does the East Devon and Dorset Coasts World Heritage Site.

  • North York Moors National Park: 12 blocks
  • East Devon and Dorset Coasts World Heritage Site: 4 blocks
  • South Downs National Park: 2 blocks
  • Exmoor National Park: 1
  • Peak District National Park: 1

Under the Infrastructure Act, fracking cannot take place from within National Parks but can take place under them. There is no ban on conventional drilling in National Parks.

Towns licensed

The following towns are now completely licensed: Barnsley, Blackburn, Burnley, Crewe, Doncaster, Goole, Mansfield, Nantwich, Scarborough, Sheffield, Skegness, Swanage, Trowbridge, Weston-super-Mare and Wigan.

Impact in wildlife

The OGA carried out an assessment of the impact of exploration and development on the top wildlife sites in each licence block. These are sites designated to protect rare or vulnerable species and habitats. They include Special Protection Areas, Special Areas of Conservation and RAMSAR wetland sites. The government describes these as European sites because they were established under European Union regulations.

Our analysis shows:

  • 82 new licence blocks have at least one European site within 1km of their boundary
  • 71 European sites are partially or totally contained in at least one licence block
  • 111 blocks could cause likely significant effects on birds in at least one European site if oil and gas activities went ahead.
  • 26 blocks could cause likely significant effects on bats in at least one European site if oil and gas activities went ahead.
  • 33 blocks could cause likely significant effects on otters in at least one European site if oil and gas activities went ahead.
  • The River Derwent Special Area of Conservation is within 10km of 20 licence blocks and flows through 7.

Consent needed

Licences give companies exclusive right to drill in a block but operators need to gain planning consent and environmental permits before activities can start.

Click here for our interactive map and portal to information on the 14 Round Licences

5 replies »

  1. Thank you so much Ruth, for your straightforward e mails which make sense of this convoluted matter, and present it in a simple form which those of us less technically minded can understand XX

  2. Greed and complete madness. Most of North Yorkshire would be ruined. Don’t forget there are already huge licence blocks in North Yorkshire to add to another 33 and the majority would be in Thirsk and Malton. A complete disgrace.

  3. I have been in contact with our estate agent / MP Kevin Hollinrake on numerous occasions over this issue and I am yet to be convinced that he is now anti-fracking.

    When elected in May he stated that he did not believe fracking would lower house prices (despite the Defra report which stated this was likely) and said he supported any new industry in North Yorkshire that would add to the UK’s energy mix. He also believed that fracking would bring money and jobs to the region. He further stated that he believed fracking could be done “safely and discreetly” in his constituency.

    I accused him of being naïve and ignorant of the industry’s shady practices. I pointed-out that fracking was unlikely to bring the local benefits he was so sure would happen and that all evidence pointed to fracking being a distructive environmental process that would ruin tourism and agriculture in Ryedale. He dismissed my opinion and then went silent on the matter.

    I am very glad he has chosen to go on a fact-finding mission to the US and would be delighted if he really has changed his spots – but I will not hold my breath. I think it is only just dawning on him how big an issue this is going to be for him and would be very surprised if he wants to go up against his political masters so early in his career over this issue.

    I believe he will come out with the odd sound bite to make it look as though he has his finger on the pulse but, in the long-run, he is not a person who will put the wishes of his constituents over those of the government and the fracking industry.

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