Anti-fracking campaigners are demanding clarification from North Yorkshire County Council about its investigation into objections to Third Energy’s planning application.
Last week, the council said in a press release it was investigating whether personal data had been used without permission in representations to Third Energy’s application to frack an existing well at Kirby Misperton. It said the scale was unknown but matters would be referred to the police if necessary. More details
This morning, in a statement to the council’s planning committee, Frack Free Ryedale said it had been told that “only one letter” was in dispute. It said the allegations had been “extremely prejudicial” and it urged to council to release more information.
David Davis, the planning coordinator for Frack Free Ryedale, said the information about the single letter had come from two council solicitors. They were not even sure that this letter was a representation relating to the KM8 planning application, Mr Davis added.
The allegations were first raised in an interim report by planners for today’s committee meeting. The report said the council had received representations ‘en masse’ via e-mail and that these had “included e-mails and letters that were sent unbeknown to the owner of the e-mail address or the named person on the letter.”
Mr Davis said the report did not say how many representations were in dispute or how this information had come to light. He said:
“While these allegations relate to online objections from national campaign groups, not personal objections from members of Frack Free Ryedale, these are still very serious allegations, particularly when compounded by the NYCC [North Yorkshire County Council] press statement stating that this matter may need to be referred to the police.”
“The subsequent attacks on opponents of the application in the local and national press, fuelled by the language of the NYCC press release, are considered to be extremely prejudicial to our reputation as objectors to this application. We have therefore instructed our lawyer to investigate the matter for us.”
“On Friday Frack Free Ryedale’s lawyer spoke on the phone to two different solicitors within the NYCC, both of whom confirmed that, as far as they could ascertain, there was only one piece of correspondence that may not have been sent by the signatory, and even this may not even have been a representation relating to this planning application.”
Mr Davis said Frack Free Ryedale’s lawyer had tried to get more information from the council but had been unsuccessful. He called on NYCC to make a public statement within the next 48 hours providing information on:
- The number of objections that are considered to be questionable (up to 8th October)
- The reasons why each of these objections have been questioned
- The number of personal objections received
- The number of objections received via national campaign groups
He also asked for an apology to those opposing the application, if appropriate.
Mr Davis also urged the committee to ensure that council officers investigated any further issues fully before issuing reports or making press statements.
The committee heard that there had now been nearly 4,000 objections to the application. Councillors agreed to attend training and a site visit before deciding the application.
No date has been set for the site visit. NYCC planners have asked for more information from Third Energy (more details on this coming soon). When this has been provided, there is likely to be another public consultation, expected to last 21 days. A decision on the application is now unlikely to be made on the proposed date of 2nd November. And there are doubts whether it will be decided this year.