Local councillors vote next week on the first plan to frack in Yorkshire.
There’s no official recommendation yet on whether Third Energy’s scheme at Kirby Misperton should be approved. But if it is, officers at Ryedale District Council have said fracking should not be allowed on Sundays.
The vote on Tuesday (15th March), by Ryedale’s planning committee, is an early test for Third Energy’s plan to frack the existing KM8 well. The final decision will be made by North Yorkshire County Council, possibly next month.
In a report to the committee, Ryedale officers said there were no grounds to refuse the application because of noise.
They said impacts on traffic, air quality and water could be controlled by “strict compliance with stringent conditions”. But the Environmental Health Officer added that if Third Energy refused to agree to the conditions the application would be unacceptable.
The report also said concerns remained about the effect of the plan on the local visitor economy and a proposed cycle route.
Third Energy has said it should be free to frack at KM8, less than a mile from some houses in Kirby Misperton, on any day of the week, including Sundays. It has proposed hours of 7am-7pm from April to October and 8am-4pm from November to March.
But Ryedale’s Environmental Health Officer has said there should be no fracking on Sundays or outside the hours of 8am-6pm, Monday-Saturday. There should also be no fracking on bank holidays.
Third Energy has said the nosiest operations – fracking and site preparation – would last a total of eight weeks. It argued that under planning guidance* this is regarded as short-term and day time noise levels of up to 70 decibels should be allowed.
Ryedale’s Environmental Health Officer said:
“Such a level for such a period would be regarded as very disturbing”.
The officer said the 70 decibel level should be regarded as a maximum. A lower level should be agreed.
Predicted noise levels during the day and night at the nearest home, Kirby O Carr, were “not insignificant”, according to the officer.
Third Energy has said it would install an acoustic barrier to reduce noise from the site. But even with this in place, predicted noise during fracking would be 48-59 decibels at Kirby O Carr. This would be above what is known as the SOAEL, Significant Observed Adverse Effect Level.
At night, noise from the site is predicted to be 12-15 decibels above background levels at the property when the workover rig is operating. This is on the threshold of acceptable standards, the officer said.
But the officer concluded “some degree of noise and disturbance is inevitable” and added:
”I do not believe, if adequately conditioned, that there are sufficient grounds to sustain an objection on the grounds of noise.”
The officer recommended North Yorkshire County Council require Third Energy to revise its noise monitoring plan. This set levels at which the company would take action to reduce noise. Ryedale District Council said the action levels had been set too high.
The Ryedale committee report said an original assessment of the fracking plans had predicted that emissions would exceed air quality standards.
This has since been reassessed, the report said. As a result, it concluded that air pollutants from the site were “below the level of significance” for air quality and so would not “have any significant impact” on the homes nearest the site.
But the report criticised the proposed air quality monitoring. Samples would be collected fortnightly and the results reported to third Energy within 20 days of collection. This could mean that Third Energy would not know about air quality problems until nearly five weeks after they happened. The report said:
“The delays in analysis and reporting, while providing monitoring information to be compared against what was predicted, will have no practical effect if there were some measures of mitigation that could be undertaken in the interim.”
It recommended daily inspections for dust and said the odour management plan should specify how monitoring would be carried out.
The proposed route for lorries delivering to KM8 would use a section of the proposed cycle route from Malton to Pickering.
Ryedale council estimated the scheme would increase peak daily traffic on this section of the cycle route by up to 259%. The council’s Economy and Community Manager said any increase in traffic, particularly heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) would have:
“a detrimental effect upon the rural character and therefore attractiveness of the [cycle] route – particularly to less confident cyclists, including younger families”.
Third Energy has responded saying the road was already used by traffic visiting the Flamingo Lane theme park.
The company has reduced the number of HGVs likely to visit the site by changing its noise-reduction plans. It had original proposed a barrier built from shipping containers. This would have needed 156 individual lorry movements to deliver and remove. But the latest plan is an Echo Barrier acoustic screen mounted on a single layer of containers. This is predicted to need 72 individual lorry movements.
Opponents of fracking in Ryedale are planning a rally outside the council meeting in Malton on Tuesday. Frack Free Ryedale said:
“It is really important that Ryedale District Council realises that this application can be opposed on planning grounds, and that many people do oppose it on planning grounds”.
The meeting is 6pm on Tuesday 15th March in the Council Chamber, Ryedale House, Malton, YO17 7HH.
* Paragraph 22 of the Planning Practice Guidance Minerals