A decision on Third Energy’s plan to frack at Kirby Misperton is unlikely to be made until at least February next year after North Yorkshire planners raised more concerns about the application.
In a letter to the company, North Yorkshire County Council suggested Third Energy’s traffic survey was “not sufficiently robust”. It also said:
- The application’s proposal on when fracking would take place was “imprecise”
- A photo montage in the application “incorrectly” showed the proposed noise barrier (made from shipping containers) painted dark green when there were no plans to do so.
- Friends of the Earth had described the company’s assessments of the impact on wildlife as “inadequate” and “flawed”.
The letter also asked for more information on site lighting. It sought confirmation about the use of a pipeline and raised concerns about lorry movements to the site, the traffic route and impacts on other road users and an ancient bridge.
Frack Free Ryedale said it was not surprised by the NYCC letter because there were “so many holes, contradictions, unanswered questions and vague statements” in the application.
The delay means no fracking application will be approved in the UK in 2015. It also means the likely decision will be made about three months after the council’s original 16-week target date.
Third Energy said it was disappointed with the delay and added that most of the issues did not relate to hydraulic fracturing. The operations director, John Dewar, said other wells drilled at Kirby Misperton had generated more traffic than the proposed frack.
The story so far
Third Energy first submitted an application on 22nd May this year to use high volume hydraulic fracturing at its KM8 well at Kirby Misperton. North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) declined to validate the application and a second one because it said they were incomplete. The third submission was validated in July and the council held an eight-week public consultation. A target date had been set for 18th November to decide the application.
On 11th October, NYCC asked for more information and allowed a second public consultation on the information. That ends on Wednesday 25th November.
In a letter to Third Energy dated 17th November and posted on the application website yesterday, NYCC’s head of planning asked for more information, including some that was outstanding from its request in October.
The letter said: “every endeavour continues to be made to progress” the application. But it warned that a third public consultation may be necessary and a decision was unlikely to be made until Tuesday 9th February. (Coincidentally, this is the same date that the public inquiry opens in Blackpool into Cuadrilla’s appeal against refusals of planning permission to frack in the Fylde in Lancashire).
Planners’ concerns in detail
Third Energy proposed in its original application to build a wall of shipping containers 8.7m (over 28ft) high around the KM8 well. This was designed to reduce the noise from the site during the fracking stage of the proposed operation. The application’s landscape assessment showed the containers painted dark green but there was no proposal to define a specific colour. The NYCC letter said:
“It can only be concluded that the assessment incorrectly portrayed the proposed development of mitigating its impact by providing photomontages of shipping containers painted in a dark green colour”.
“One can only assume therefore, without any indication to the contrary that a mixture of colours could be a possibility without any control;”
The company has since suggested an alternative noise attenuation barrier. But NYCC said in its letter that details of this barrier had been “solely conveyed to the authority by way of a manufacturer’s leaflet and a photograph”. There were no details of height or its impact on reducing noise. The letter said:
“There requires to be demonstrable evidence of the capability of the alternative noise attenuation barrier to achieve levels which can then be assessed by the County Planning Authority’s adviser”.
Third Energy said work requiring larger numbers of lorry movements was scheduled for March 2016 and it submitted a traffic survey carried out in March 2015. The KM8 well is near the Flamingo Land resort, which is usually closed from November to late March.
The council’s letter said the work start date could be affected by factors outside the company’s control. It said:
“No guarantee may be placed on the March 2015 traffic survey being wholly relevant and representative.”
“[It] must be demonstrated how the March 2015 [survey] can be deemed to be relevant for any other times of the year.”
The survey also did not take account of cyclists, pedestrians, horse-riders or motorcyclists, the council said.
“One single survey, outside the ‘open season’ of the Flamingo Land Resort, solely reporting on vehicular traffic is not sufficiently robust unless demonstrated within the assessment is shown the reasoning behind the omission of other road users”
“For the [traffic] assessment to withstand scrutiny, it must be based on sound survey information”.
Hours of vehicle movement
North Yorkshire Police, in a letter dated 13th October, said anti-fracking protests were likely if the application were approved. It called for restrictions on the times lorries could enter and leave the site to reduce the cost of policing. It recommended lorry movements should restricted to between 9am and 4pm, Monday to Thursday, in the first three phases of work. The NYCC letter recommended:
“This requires a re-assessment of the traffic proposals”.
The council also asked for confirmation that Third Energy had not proposed an alternate route for lorries. If the designated route were not usable, the council said, all work requiring vehicle access must stop. Any alternate route must be assessed.
Habitat and species
Friends of the Earth’s response to the application, dated 3rd November, said Third Energy’s Phase 1 habitat survey was “inadequate” in its assessment of the impact on otter, bats and newts. FoE also said the application’s evaluation of the potential impact on the River Derwent Special Area of Conservation was “flawed” because it did not take into account the Sugar Hill Drain which linked the well site to the SAC.
Friends of the Earth also said Third Energy’s proposal to use monitoring after permission had been granted to determine whether bats roosted at Alma Farm nearby could be unlawful.
Hours for fracking
Third Energy has said that each fracking stage would take no more than five hours and would be carried out in daylight. NYCC said in its letter:
“The statement that the proposed hydraulic fracturing stimulation treatment would be conducted during daylight hours is imprecise”
It recommended the company identify an eight-hour period that would take account of changes in daylight times throughout the year.
Impact on heritage
Ryedale District Council planners recommended refusal of the application because there had not been an appraisal of the impact of lorries on the Grade II listed bridge over the Costa Beck. Third Energy has agreed to carry out a survey of the bridge but NYCC’s letter said the application’s heritage impact assessment has made no connection between the bridge and the impact of heavy traffic from the fracking site.
Historic England, in a letter of 3rd September, raised concerns about the effect of vibration on other local heritage features, which include Kirby Misperton’s church. Historic England said:
“[The local authority should] satisfy itself that the impact of vibration is understood and the proposed mitigation (particularly in regard to vibration) can be deemed to preserve, and as necessary repair, affected heritage assets”.
NYCC said it wanted a legal agreement to deal with any financial contribution by Third Energy and any long-term effects from the site. “This should be at the penultimate drafting stage” before the application can be decided, it said, and should be open to public comment.
The council asked for details of all external lighting, including that on the derrick of the 37m high rig and the 25m high coil tubing tower. It also asked for a written guarantee that a pipeline to KM8, which would supply water for fracking, would not be used for any other purposes (such as waste water re-injection of condensate down the KM3 well) until all five fracking treatments have been completed.
David Davis, planning coordinator for Frack Free Ryedale, which opposes the application, said:
“It is clearly impractical to insist that local councils have to make decisions on major projects such as this within a 16-week timescale, as that would preclude the necessary back and forth between the planning authority, the applicant and key consultees.”
“In the case of KM8, there are so many holes, contradictions, unanswered questions and vague statements within Third Energy’s planning application that this request by the NYCC comes as no surprise.”
Frack Free Ryedale said its 335-page objection, with sections written by independent noise, environmental, water, health, traffic and financial consultants, included many other issues relating to this application that had not yet been discussed with the applicant.
In a statement, Third Energy said it was considering its response to the letter from NYCC.
“Naturally, Third Energy is disappointed that NYCC is unable to process the application in the designated timescale, particularly in light of the fact that we agreed to extend the normal 21 day consultation period to eight weeks, in order to provide time for the information to be reviewed and statutory consultation responses to be received. To date a number of statutory consultation responses are still outstanding.”
Commenting on the request John Dewar, Operations Director of Third Energy said:
“NYCC has requested the extension to ensure that a number of matters, the majority of which are not specific to hydraulic fracturing, can be fully addressed. Several of the matters which require clarification have arisen as the result of responses by statutory consultees and other representations made to the Planning Authority.”
“We appreciate that this application, and thus North Yorkshire County Council itself, is the subject of close scrutiny and public interest. But is should be remembered, that this application relates to an existing well and an existing site. We have drilled eight wells safely at our two Kirby Misperton sites, all of which took longer, with greater traffic movements and were more complex than the proposed fracks at KM8.”
The NYCC letter can viewed on the Documents section of the application website
22nd May 2015
Third Energy submits application to hydraulically stimulate formations in its KM8 well at Kirby Misperton
9th June 2015
NYCC tells Third Energy the application is incomplete and cannot be validated.
2nd July 2015
Third Energy delivers second application to NYCC
17th July 2015
NYCC tells Third Energy the application cannot be validated
29th July 2015
New planning application received and validated
19th August 2015
Public consultation begins
28th August 2015
Further information supplied by Third Energy
11th October 2015
In an 11-page letter NYCC invokes Section 22 of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011 to ask Third Energy for more information on the application
20th October 2015
NYCC’s planning committee decides to attend a site visit and training
4th November 2015
Meeting between Third Energy and NYCC planning authority
5th November 2015
New public consultation begins
10th November 2015
Ryedale District Council’s planning committee votes to defer its decision on the application
19th November 2015
NYCC asks for more information from Third Energy and an extension in the time to consider the application, suggesting 9th February as the new decision date
25th November 2015
Closing date of second consultation period
6th January 2016
Proposed date for listing the application on draft agenda of NYCC planning meeting
2nd-8th February 2016
Proposed period during which a formal site visit could take place
9th February 2016
Proposed date for NYCC planning meeting to decide the application
Updated 25/11/15 to include statement from Third Energy