Opponents of shale gas exploration warned North Yorkshire County Council today they may seek a judicial review of the decision to grant planning permission to Third Energy to frack at Kirby Misperton.
Also today Greenpeace stepped up its campaign with an appeal for funds to challenge fracking across the UK.
In a pre-action letter to North Yorkshire County Council, Friends of the Earth and the local campaign group Frack Free Ryedale said they believed the consent for fracking granted on 23 May was unlawful.
They argued that the council failed to consider the impact of the scheme on climate change.
In the planning application, Third Energy proposed to burn methane produced by fracking at its electricity generating station at Knapton.
But according to Friends of the Earth and Frack Free Ryedale, the councillors did not take into account the effect of greenhouse gases produced by burning the methane.
The campaigners said they may seek a judicial review if they do not receive a satisfactory reply from the council.
“Court may be called upon to decide”
Jake White, legal adviser to Friends of the Earth, said:
“Communities have no right of appeal against fracking decisions, only developers do. Friends of the Earth and local people can’t appeal to get the councillors’ decision over-turned. Given that we have legitimate legal concerns it is only right that the court may be called upon to decide them.
“Because the decision appears to have been arrived at without properly considering climate change, we believe it to be unlawful.”
There were more than 4,000 formal objections to Third Energy’s scheme and only 36 letters of support.
During the two-day hearing on the planning application, several opponents argued that North Yorkshire County Council had a statutory obligation to consider climate change and for this reason the application should be refused.
One councillor, Conservative David Ireton, asked how Third Energy’s plans fitted with measures to reduce carbon emissions. The planning officer, Vicky Perkin, replied:
“It is not the responsibility of the planning authority to expect an applicant to deal with matters of climate change in that context in such a wide scale. You cannot apply that to a specific planning application.”
But Simon Bowens, Friends of the Earth’s Yorkshire campaigner, said today:
“A mere six months after the Paris Climate Change Agreement, North Yorkshire County Council decided to support a dirty, dangerous, fossil fuel industry.
“They side-stepped the wishes of the people they represent, the powerful testimony presented to them over two days, and their legal duties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This was undemocratic, reckless and Friends of the Earth believes it could be unlawful as well.”
North Yorkshire County Council issued this statement this afternoon:
“North Yorkshire County Council’s planning committee gave proper regard to all material planning considerations before approving the application by Third Energy to undertake fracking for shale gas in the vicinity of Kirby Misperton.
“The County Council’s legal team will consider the pre action letter from Friends of the Earth. The Council will usually have a period of 14 days to respond formally.”
Across the UK, Greenpeace stepped up its campaign against fracking.
In a letter today appealing for donations it said:
“We have reached a critical moment in our fight against fracking and need your help to continue our work.”
The organisation said donations would be used to “build a stronger movement and take people’s objections straight to the heart of government, asking for commitments to ensure the UK remains frack free”.
“We will also investigate fracking companies; exposing their lack of experience, shoddy safety records and dodgy financing, to further discredit this dangerous industry.”
Updated at 18.07 with a statement from North Yorkshire County Council
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