Opposition

Legal challenge to council approval of N Yorks fracking

yorks-rose.jpgThe decision by North Yorkshire County Council to approve plans by Third Energy to frack at Kirby Misperton is to be challenged in court.

Friends of the Earth and members of local residents’ group, Frack Free Ryedale, applied today to the High Court for a judicial review.

On May 23, the council’s planning committee voted by seven to four to approve Third Energy’s application to frack, test and produce gas from its KM8 well for up to nine years. There were 4,375 objections to the application and 36 letters in support.

The groups said they believed the council’s decision was unlawful because it:

  • Failed properly to assess climate change by not considering the environmental impact of burning gas from KM8 at a nearby power station at Knapton;
  • Failed to secure long-term financial protection against any environmental damage.

North Yorkshire County Council said this morning:

“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.”

A spokesperson for Third Energy said:

“Third Energy has not yet seen the applications for judicial review and so cannot comment directly. North Yorkshire Country Council approved Third Energy’s application after an extremely long, thorough investigation and hearing and we have confidence that the council followed all due processes.”

Climate impacts

Friends of the Earth has instructed Leigh Day solicitors and the barrister, David Wolfe, QC, both of whom specialise in judicial reviews.

Simon Bowens, Friends of the Earth’s Yorkshire and Humber campaigner, said:

“Shale gas is a dirty fossil fuel and it is the responsibility of North Yorkshire County Council to require a full assessment of the impact this fracking application would have on the climate. They failed to do that, and this is why we believe the courts need to consider the way that this decision was arrived at by seven councillors in May.”

David Davis, a retired chartered surveyor from the Ryedale village of Hovingham, said:

“Concerned local residents have spent many hours considering the application, submitting evidence and raising their concerns in front of the Planning Committee. Despite all this, the County Council have let the people of North Yorkshire down by failing to address these crucial factors.

“Our only recourse is to challenge this decision in the courts and hope that justice will be served.”

Jackie Cray, a retired vicar from Kirby Misperton, said:

“North Yorkshire County Council has a moral and legal responsibility to ensure against harm to current and future generations.

“We believe that they have failed in that duty in two key areas, climate change as well as making sure that there is enough money to clean up if anything went wrong.

“We call on the High Court to ensure that this crucial decision for our village and the wider population is made lawfully.”

A judicial review is the only challenge open to opponents of a planning permission. But it examines just the way in which a decision was made, not the rights and wrongs of the conclusion reached. If successful, the court can quash a decision.

The Kirby Misperton case will now go the Permission Stage where the High Court will decide whether or not there should be a full hearing. This initial decision is expected to happen in the next few weeks.

Leigh Day and David Wolfe QC represented Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association in its judicial review in November 2014. This failed to overturn the decision by West Sussex County Council to approve plans by Cuadrilla to test the flow of oil at its well in Balcombe.

A judicial review of the approval by Lancashire County Council of Cuadrilla’s monitoring plans at Roseacre Wood has been postponed. A decision on whether to pursue it will be made when the outcome is known of Cuadrilla’s appeals, now expected by October.


This report is part of DrillOrDrop’s Rig Watch project. Rig Watch receives funding from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. More details here

38 replies »

  1. Wow, who would have thought, a legal challenge by a desperate movement to oppose a decision handed down by an elected community body whose charter it is to represent ALL it’s constituents views, not just those who oppose for opposition’s sake.

    The shale gas industry will jump this small obstacle and prevail, just as it has done with all the other attempts by the anti-fracking movement.

    Shale gas……..unstoppable.

    • Well I suppose this news was always going to inflame the usual suspects 🙂

      When you say “ALL it’s constituents views, not just those who oppose for opposition’s sake” – you must mean the 4375 who objected because they have researched the issue and come to the conclusion that, on balance it’s not a good thing (and of course the 36 who wrote in in support). Clearly they can’t represent views which are not first presented to them can they Michael?

      I’ve come across very few people who oppose anything for “opposition’s sake” but I have met some very well educated and informed people who oppose shale gas for some very god reasons.

      They are not getting very far for an “unstoppable” industry, and I think the “stopping” has really only just started. 🙂

      Out of interest Michael do you have any investment in shale gas?

      • Unstoppable John, unstoppable and that must irk you something fierce☺

        The news of an appeal by the ” renegades ” causes me no angst at all, totally expected, but nothing will stop the shale train, I suggest you all get on board while you can.

        Only too happy to declare an interest in shale John, it’s not too late for you, maybe you could suggest to Tina to take an interest, it’ll help her pay her legal account

          • John, I’ll leave my ” interest ” comment up to you for your very own interpretation. I don’t consider my personal circumstances to be of anyone’s interest but mine.

            What makes you think for one minute that I’d share my personal investment portfolio with you?

            • Mr Dobbie, you have now admitted that you are invested in the shale gas industry, although refuse to say exactly what your investments are in [as is your right, of course]. Perhaps those reading your industry-driven commentary on fracking will take this into account when they happen across your comments on web pages such as this one.
              As for those opposed to fracking, we have no investments to protect, no profit margin to maintain, no portfolio to manage, and nothing to gain personally from standing up to this unwanted, unnecessary and unsafe industry, as people are doing in every country in the world where fracking is taking place.
              All people opposed to fracking want is to avoid having noisy, polluting fracking sites 400 m – oh, sorry, it’s now 300m – from their homes, fracking day and night, and thousands of truck movements through their villages, and to be free of the risk of water and air pollution, health problems and increased climate change. Like, you know, has happened everywhere else fracking has taken hold. …
              https:​//www.​publicintegrity.​org/2016/06/23/19809/it-just-r​uined-everything-whole-life

            • Mr Redston there is nothing to be gained by to-ing and fro-ing with you about what drives my fracking sentiment, suffice to say that money isn’t the be all and end all

              One can have an opinion or social stance on a particular issue without it being aligned to financial gain or loss.

              Your narrow minded comment is typical of the tunnel vision your side of the discussion seems to adopt.

              As a final comment by me regarding my interest in shale, which you and John Hobson seem to be so fixated by, let me inform you that any holding I may have in this industry wouldn’t shout a round at the local..

              Now onward and upward with shale. Let us all unite in the many benefits this energy form will bring us all.

            • “My holding I may have in this industry wouldn’t shout a round at the local”

              Ah well Michael you probably aren’t alone there given that Igas are now trading at 12p down from 125p in 2014 and AJ Lucas are trading at 20c down from $1.76 in 2013. There must be a lot of people like you who believed the hype and who are now desperately trying to pump the benefits of shale gas shares to try to limit their losses.

              If you are ever in Lytham old boy I’ll buy you a pint – I hate to see a man suffer like that.

    • The Industry did not manage to succeed at the Becconsall Site. Far from it. After spending millions of investors money they are closing it down. If you study all the planning applications for the site and had attended all presentations you would have seen the real reasons why they are abandoning it. Unless you were present at the 30 minute presentations of LCC/2014/0047 you would be unaware of the fact that the applicant withdrew fracking application 08/12/1032 (held in abeyance at the applicant’s request) within 10 minutes of presentations given to LCC regarding the environmental threat to the RAMSAR site from proximity and functional links. Clearly an Industry with limited ability.
      In case you forgot LCC said no to Roseacre and PNR. I would class that as Stopped Applications.
      What we have is top legal teams and specialists who understand English and planning law and tens of thousands opposing an unneeded Industry. Those who say whoop whoop and unstoppable make a mockery of the Industry and do no favours to the handful of people who support this Industry.

    • How can this be allowed after all the envioramental disasters in America, this is not what “ALL” The people want, and what they are saying is an emphatic NO!

  2. What a joke! They are protesting about carbon emissions from a plant that has been generating essential electricity for over 20 years! Oh and this is sponsored by the same Fiends of the Earth that claimed on TV that sand is carcinogenic!

    Of course long term enviro damage is covered by the licencing conditions. A well cannot have the licence revoked until the well has been abandoned under approved procedures. The financial probity of the company is investigated in great detail, meaning that licences are not issued to dodgy companies. Its all been looked at. See

    https://www.gov.uk/guidance/oil-and-gas-operatorship

    https://www.gov.uk/guidance/oil-and-gas-petroleum-licensing-guidance#criteria-to-become-a-licensee

    • Ken – it’s good to see you are learning and you are at least no longer making your repeated, misleading and misinformed claim that “If Third Energy go broke this is all covered by a bond. They are required for licencing.”

      Now, why is it that there seems to be a limited company set up for every well pad location? What’s your take on that Ken?

  3. If its so wonderful, why are Germany and France not allowing it? Seems only the Brits dont give a damn…..

  4. “The Kirby Misperton case will now go the Permission Stage where the High Court will decide whether or not there should be a full hearing. This initial decision is expected to happen in the next few weeks.”

    Ken – surely you must have expected a JR? I’m sure Third Energy were expecting this. Hopefully the Council’s legal advice got it right and the High Court will refuse a JR – unlikely though.

    It is interesting that the two reasons for holding a JR are not related to the drilling or fracking of the well which implies there are no holes in these aspects of the project. As you say Knapton has been running for many years, and there are no plans to cut gas fired generating in the UK, in fact more gas fired power stations are required as coal is shut down. I expect this argument will be used by the County Council’s legal tream.

  5. “It is interesting that the two reasons for holding a JR are not related to the drilling or fracking of the well which implies there are no holes in these aspects of the project. ”

    No, you are drawing an invalid conclusion Paul. Read what our journalist here has gone to the trouble of explaining to us:

    “A judicial review is the only challenge open to opponents of a planning permission. But it examines just the way in which a decision was made, not the rights and wrongs of the conclusion reached.”

    • John – if there was an issue with the fracking / drilling which the Councillors / Planning Officer did not consider / got wrong it would have been highlighted in the JR submission. e.g. one of the JRs I have been involved in used noise / accoustic surveys as a primary reason for a JR in that the Planning Inspector (in this particular case) had not properly considered these aspects of the application when approving the developer’s appeal. The more points you can contest, the more chance you have of getting your JR and then winning it.

      • Paul – my understanding is that whilst the JR can focus on aspects of the case where the decision making *process* can be demonstrated to have been suspect, the absence of an area from the JR can not reasonably be said to imply that there are no issues in that area.

  6. John, FOE et al will have scrutinised the process with their legal councel and if there were shortcomings in the process they would have highlighted (and used) these in the JR request. Would you not agree that “Failed properly to assess climate change by not considering the environmental impact of burning gas from KM8 at a nearby power station at Knapton” is a long shot and only being used due to no holes in the process.

    The other issue of “Failed to secure long-term financial protection against any environmental damage” is interesting in that as far as I am aware there is no legal requirement for a Council to do this. But I am probably wrong if this is what the case will be decided on.

    I do not agree with Ken’s comment “The financial probity of the company is investigated in great detail, meaning that licences are not issued to dodgy companies.” There are companies operating in the UK sector which I am surprised were ever awarded licences.

    There is a push for O & G companies to be forced to take out ring fenced bonds to cover post abandonment environmental problems. Several significant City companies are currently working on this jointly. However it is mainly the huge North Sea abandonment costs which are coming to fruition which are driving this. Increasing all the time with EU interference and Greenpeace etc. lobbying. Perhaps this will become more realistic out of the EU?

  7. So the residents of Kirby Misperton want Oil/Gas/Heating/Cars/Panes to Fly on holiday etc but do not want the oil/gas sourced near them basically! NIMBY HYPOCRITES ! The World is full of them!

    • Calm down Malcolm. No need to shout.

      I’m sure you are entitled to your opinion (on record elsewhere) that fracking is “not dangerous in any shape or form”, but the lack of nuance in that statement might explain why we don’t take you very seriously at all, especially when you only come here to have a rant.

  8. I think at this stage of the KM saga the options of FOE etc are clearly limited Paul – as I think we can both agree that they are limited to procedural points rather than arguments on the merits or problems with fracking itself.

    Like you I find Ken’s insistence that all is fine amusing given the number of one man and his dog companies out there prospecting, but then Ken’s view of fracking is rather, how can I put it politely, … optimistic.

    I think a lot of people are seriously concerned that bonds for abandonment are not only not a requirement, but that the government seems to be actively avoiding including them as a requirement. This again reduces public faith in regulation.

  9. I think the CCC report on UK shale is just published and the Committee gave a cautious green light under stringent regulations. So the first argument may be harder to argue.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s