North Yorkshire County Council has confirmed it is investigating whether personal data was used without permission in objections to Third Energy’s application to frack near a Ryedale village.
A public consultation closed yesterday (14th October 2015) on the application, which seeks to frack the existing KM8 well less than a mile from the centre of Kirby Misperton.
A statement from the council said it was currently verifying the identity of people and organisations who made representations to the council about the application. It said:
“The council has raised concerns with members of its planning and regulatory functions committee that some ‘en masse’ representations from objectors have included emails and letters unbeknown to the owner of the email address or the named person on the letter and that personal data may have been used without consent.”
The statement continued:
“The scale of the concern is unknown at this point. If any of the council’s enquiries raise matters that require police attention those matters will be referred to the police.”
The Northern Echo said council sources believe it unlikely there was malicious intent behind the sending of the emails in question. They said some of the instances identified may have involved people who did not realise the messages they had posted on websites would be sent to the authority’s consultation.
The application is expected to be decided at a meeting of the Planning and Regulatory Functions Committee on Monday 2nd November 2015 at County Hall in Northallerton.
The next meeting of the committee, on Tuesday 20th October, will consider an interim planning officers’ report (link here) on the application and the outcome of the consultation so far. The officers are recommending a visit to the proposed site before a decision is made on the application.
Frack Free Ryedale said the interim report indicated that the Council have received nearly 2,500 objections and only 12 letters of support so far It.
“We share the Council’s concern if there have been any problems with the consultation process and how objections have been received.
“We understand that some people have objected using online letter templates organised by national campaign groups, and may not have realised these were going direct to the NYCC, rather than back to the campaign groups themselves. This may be the reason for why the Council has suggested that a small number people have accidentally objected twice, or were not aware that they had objected to the council.”
“Also, of course many people, particularly older couples, share email addresses and both people may have submitted their own personal objection via the same email address.”
“We are surprised that the interim report does not include more detail about what may have occurred and would welcome further clarification on how this has happend, and the number of responses involved.”
Updated 16/10/15 to include Frack Free Ryedale statement and quote given to The Northern Echo