Regulation

Ryedale residents wait in the dark as councillors reject expert help on setting fracking strategy

180111 RDC DrillOrDrop

People waiting outside Ryedale District Council meeting, 11 January 2018. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Councillors in Ryedale, North Yorkshire, have rejected proposals to employ a specialist to represent them at a hearing that will decide the area’s fracking policy for the next 20 years.

At a special meeting tonight, the district council, which includes Third Energy’s fracking site at Kirby Misperton, voted against the idea for the second time.

A motion calling for the use of an expert planner at the hearing on the county’s minerals strategy was defeated by 16 votes to 10 with one abstention.

The decision was met with disappointment among many opponents of fracking who had gathered outside the meeting at the council’s offices in Malton.

There was also anger about the way the meeting had been organised. An hour before the start about 150 people were standing outside in the dark. One person had queued for three hours hoping to attend.

But the council said only 30 people could come into the council chamber. Entry was decided by drawing raffle tickets from a bucket. Council chairman, William Oxley cited health and safety reasons for the decision to limit numbers.

“Getting a good deal for Ryedale”

Council officers are due to represent Ryedale at the Examination in Public of the North Yorkshire joint minerals and waste plan. At the hearing, the government-appointed inspector will assess the plan to ensure that it is robust and complies with national policy. She will hear evidence from the public, local councils, regulators and the industry.

The North Yorkshire plan, developed by the county council, North York Moors National Park Authority and the City of York, is very significant because it is the first in England to set policy on fracking. It is expected to become a template that is used by other parts of the country.

Supporters of the tonight’s proposal had argued that Ryedale needed a specialist minerals planner, at a cost of about £12,000, to represent its interests. They feared the oil and gas industry would seek to weaken the regulations in the plan.

The author of the motion, Cllr Paul Andrews, argued:

“Our officers will do their best but they are not specialised mineral planners. They will be at a disadvantage against highly paid consultants representing the oil and gas industry. This is about getting a good deal for our residents. This is a no-brainer.”

Cllr Lindsey Burr, who seconded the motion, said:

“This debate is not about being for or against fracking. It is about protecting Ryedale.”

She said the district could not expect the county council to stand up for Ryedale.

“This motion is about looking after ourselves.”

Cllr Di Keal, a supporter of the proposal, said the council needed to match the skills of industry consultants.

“By not supporting this proposal we are putting this council and our residents at a disadvantage.”a

Another support, Cllr Tim Thornton, said

“The industry are not going to turn up [at the Examination in Public] with a bunch of amateurs. …. We need that professional help.”

Cllr Mike Potter said fracking would have an impact on every Ryedale resident and business and the minerals plan was worth defending robustly.

“Waste of public money”

Opponents of the proposal said the council didn’t need to spend public money on an expert to defend its policy, agreed in 2016, for a moratorium on fracking.

Cllr Janet Sanderson said employing a consultant was unnecessary duplication.

“We have already expressed our view as non-experts. Why pay for an expert to defend a non-expert view”.

Cllr Luke Ives said the council had already voted in July 2017 against employing a minerals consultant. He accused opponents of fracking of disrupting a recent council meeting in what he said was “striking at the heart of our democracy”.

Cllr Linda Cowling said she could not condone “wasting pubic money on expensive consultants”. She said money could be spent instead on removing the Kirby Misperton Protection Camp, which she described as illegal and threatening.

Cllr Caroline Goodrick said employing a consultant could put the plan at risk, while Cllr Steve Arnold said:

“This is a complete and utter waste of tax payer’s money. I will not be bullied…Most people I know have never even heard of a joint mineral waste plan and most people I know, to be honest, are sick to death of hearing about fracking”

Exclusion zones

The council also debated whether it should continue to support a ban on fracking in the Vale of Pickering and the Wolds, as well as the North York Moors.

Cllr John Clark, an opponent of fracking, said it was illogical to exclude the process from particular areas.

“If fracking is not safe then by definition it should not be excluded from some places. It should not be anywhere.”

Cllr Thornton, a former GP, said if fracking went ahead it should be put in places with no people. He said he loved the North York Moors but he could not countenance putting fracking pads within 3km of pregnant women.

“We should not be protecting landscapes before people”.

An amendment which supported employing an consultant but proposed removing the ban on fracking in the Vale of Pickering and the Wolds from Ryedales policy, was defeated by 23 votes to four.

“Breaking every rule of accountability”

Several councillors criticised the exclusion of large numbers of people who wanted to attend the meeting.

Cllr Burr said “We have never done this”. Cllr Keal said she had asked, unsuccessfully, for the meeting to be moved to a bigger venue. “It breaks every rule of accountability and transparency”, she said.

At previous meetings, the council chamber has held up to 100 members of the public. Cllr Andrews said he had been involved with the council since 1988. “On no occasion have I ever known members of the public to be excluded.

Cllr Oxley said the decision to limit numbers had been taken on the advice of the emergency planning team at North Yorkshire County Council, along with the police, the fire and rescue and ambulance services.

After the meeting, Cllr Keal said:

“The exclusion of people who tried to attend the meeting last night was disgraceful. They simply wanted to exercise their democratic right to listen to the debate and were barred from doing so on spurious health and safety grounds.

“The council chamber has in the past accommodated far more than 30 members of the public and requests from myself and other councillors to move to another venue such as the Milton Rooms because of the level of interest in the debate were simply dismissed by officers. Some people had waited for several hours to gain entry only to be told they couldn’t unless they were selected in ‘raffle’ of seats. It was simply outrageous and made a mockery of local democracy.”

Reaction

Eddie Thornton, of Pickering, responded to the vote:

“We are constantly told by our government that fracking can be safe if it’s well regulated. Our council had an opportunity to strengthen those regulations last night, but despite strong voices of support, the leading Tory group voted against the interests of the community, saying it was a waste of money. This is the same council that spent half a million pounds on a failed bid to sell a car park, and yet they won’t spend £10,000 to get the best deal for Ryedale.”

Reporting on this post was made possible by individual donations to DrillOrDrop

 

37 replies »

  1. Brilliant news. You act like a mob you get dealt with as such. Do you honestly think you can just barge your way into council meetings and not face any repercussions?
    A lot of admiration for this council and it’s good news for shale exploration in general as the upcoming blueprints will be replicated across England.

    • “barge your way into council meetings” LOL Peeny – I don’t think you quite get the way we do things over here do you. We are not your Trumpland over here you know.

      Arbitrary exclusion by a council afraid to be scrutinised met with polite queuing and a raffle, but GottaBPeeny rants on about mobs.😂

      [Edited by moderator]

        • They didn’t barge their way in on either occasion. They just walking in normally. On the last occasion, they were understandably angry after the pro fracking Tory and former Tory groups refused to even debate the issue. Hence another meeting had to be requested to debate the issue at additional cost to the taxpayers – including numerous security guards for a meeting that was entirely peaceful and well behaved. On the first occasion, anti frackers left quite peaceably after two short adjournments, once it was agreed to debate the issue at a future meeting i.e. the one last night.
          You are however right that the blueprint will be replicated across the country. That’s why it’s important that this MWJP is sound and represents the ‘gold standard regulation’ that industry and govt keep promising. Allowing an industry, with deep pockets in other people’s trousers, to employ the very best consultants and legal representation could mean that regulation is pushed far back.

    • Stop reading these ‘kiddie’ style websites Jack. They pretend they are something grown up with their website names but actually a lot of baloney.

      • Thanks for the tip GBK. Anything you attack will probably be something worth taking seriously. It’s an interesting read revealing how high level corporate interests can work against democracy. Far from kiddy stuff.

      • GBK,

        I know I’m on target , when the only response from pro-frackers is the text book style ” try and belittle ” the author.

    • Jack

      The article, inter alia, notes that a INEOS and the chemical industry community have met the Brexit Department.
      The chemical industry are looking for

      1. Access to the single market
      2. Free movement of people
      3. Secure and affordable energy
      4. A science policy that stimulates growth

      So no Brexit bonanza in sight for them at present for items 1 and 2, but ok for secure energy ( thanks to countries outwith the EU, other than electricity from France ) so that point looks to be Brexit free as does the 4th point.

      Maybe open democracy is grasping for things to say about Brexit, and how to get Brexit, dirty, and fracking into a headline. The Mail might interpreted it as, WORRIED ANTI DEMOCRATIC CHEMICAL INDUSTRY LOBBY FOR REMAIN. Such is life!

      • Oops
        But a larger group of heavy energy users want to avoid paying as much green tax ( cement, steel, chemicals ).
        The article thinks they may be asking for a reduction as a bargaining chip for Brexit, or they will all scoot off to the continent for better subsidies or something.

  2. Limiting the right to democratic participation will only lessen the authority of elected councillors and paid staff. What are they afraid of? Accountability? If they were proud of their decisions they wouldn’t have kept citizens outside. Do they want their grandchildren to suffer birth defects due to fracking? Think hard, NYCC. [Edited by moderator] The truth about your real allegiances, be it over protecting the earth against frackateers, [edited by moderator] will come out—and sooner than you think. £12,000 for an expert planner would have gone a long way to save your reputations. Now, journalists like myself will want to start digging a little deeper, to know what really lies behind these two dodgy decisions, shutting people out—and rejecting expertise. CVT’s attempt to build a monstrously large and lit up car park, in Botton Village, Danby, was recently defeated by planners 12 to 1. It was a ”victory for democracy,” as the National Parks Authority told me in a recent interview for our Resnews, the publication of Rescare.org.uk, for families of those with learning disabilities. Unlike the NYCC Social Services, handmaidens of the CVT, the planning committee of the National Parks, actually made an impartial site visit, didn’t like what the charity bosses were proposing to do to the landscape, and then actually went against the paid staff planner’s original proposal to accept the destruction of the biodynamic hayfield. This is the first public body to take the plight of Botton seriously. How does this relate to the council’s rejection of a specialist planner? Well, it shows how, in government, paid staff, Westminster mandarins, cannot always be trusted to carry out the job of elected MPs and local councillors. They, like the CVT bosses, are prone to think of their paid positions first, and of their beneficiaries and public good second. Human nature, weakness, we all are prone to complacency, and some even to corruption. Keeping people out of that voting hall won’t keep them in the dark forever, and councillors will only raise more questions about their personal motives than they can answer. What are they afraid of? The truth about the real impact of fracking? £12,000 for an expert planner is a fraction of what one police officer costs to parade around the road by Kirby Misperton, usually bored out of their minds, unless there are protectors sleeping in caravans that they, naughty little boys that they are, enjoy tormenting by waking the women at 5:30am, as I witnessed one morning on a drive back to Bristol from Botton Village. The country is watching what happens up there, with increasing interest. Keep up the good work, protectors of democracy! ☮️❤️☮️❤️

    • Anita

      If you going digging, key issue for me is, how many people have been allowed in the chamber before? Was this number in excess of the rooms capacity re fire regs?

      Ie if the council chamber can hold more than the 30 allowed in, then they should have allowed more in. In which case, where does 30 come from?

      The decision seems to have survived that number anyway, and the selection method seems democratic.

      However, the number turning up may well exceed the rooms capacity, so restricting numbers is not an anti democratic decision any more than limiting the number in the public gallery of the House of Commons.

      Councillors should have thicker skins, but also note that those present may not represent the spectrum of people who voted them in.

    • Paula [edited by moderator] you don’t understand what ‘hypocrisy’ means. You choose to use the word democracy only when it suits you. The entire anti frack horde are undemocratic.

  3. Well said GBK. Free speech is a wondrous thing and when attempts are made to stifle it, then it is a good weathervane as to who is winning the argument.

  4. This meeting seemed to me to be more about putting the protectors in their place than looking after Ryedale…congratulation on deciding that £12, 000 would be money wasted to at least bring some caution to this industry….I’m at a loss to know how you sleep at night.

    • We all sleep very well thanks. Sometimes you lot preeve us off so much with your nonsense it sometimes causes us a little restlessness however in general we just pity you.

  5. I think you will find refracktion that GBK was quoting with (recent) historical accuracy. Wherever he was when doing so, at least he knew the facts and referenced them. Caused a little discomfort by so doing, which wouldn’t have done if it had not struck a bit of a nerve. I know it is part of the “game” to ignore what has happened previously and then make out the following reaction is out of the blue and unjustified (remember the Ineos injunction, the rig delivery to PNR etc?) but it makes me chuckle in this context. Do you really believe there are all these new “virgin” readers on DOD who have not observed activities in the recent past? Not certain that is a very sizeable target audience, but when needs must, I suppose.

    Yes, I am peculiar, in that my memory, even short term, is still functioning well-I put it down to avoiding Shiraz with pork.

    And my glass is half full still. Oil price up to $70/barrel-shows just how “secure” the energy markets are (not). Glad a few local residents to PNR will still be able to afford the increasing diesel prices-if they can navigate their way past the protestors..

    • Martin I can assure you I’m in the UK. North of the border from you. Although if mob rule/lefties are allowed to bring down this country any further I’ll be moving to better pastures shortly. The UK is in a current spiral of death.
      Hobson and Co. can’t fathom why a Brit would say the things I do cause it makes them feel sad and upset, they believe it’s the ‘people v the system’.
      There are more of my kind than there are of theirs but we are normally too busy to come on blogs. I make sure to allocate time to rile then up now and again.
      Hopefully we will see some bigger ba**s from the government this year and regain control from the barbaric horde.

    • $70 dollars a barrel. Good news for our indigenous North sea industry and our experienced offshore workforce. This year will be seeing another rise in output from the North sea with greatly reduced production costs.

      No viable market for shale. To expensive, to slow, with dwindling support.

  6. Fingers crossed it is turned down and it goes to a public enquiry. The problem with planning committees is all it needs is the people at the top of the council to tell the planning officer what kind of report they want. The people at the top decide how much resources and effort is allocated to the issue. The people at the top decide on the location and how many of the public they let in they also decide who gets to speak on the issue..The great thing about a public enquiry is no one is silenced no one is side lined.If you want to make a submission you can, if you want to speak you can, if you want to ask questions you can if you just want to sit and observe you can.
    People have long memories, Natascha Engel former MP for North East Derbyshire lost her seat due to supporting fracking.

    • So you think the Council tell the planning officer what to do? I’ll cite ‘Wressle’ as an example to discredit your theory.

    • Shirebrook
      Yes, I agree, which is why those at the top should get voted out now and again, and everyone should keep an eye out for sleaze.

      Many years ago Private Eye called Doncaster ‘the beacon of sleaze’ as its councillors seemed to get rich via various land and building scams. Some pressure on the planners maybe? As far as I am aware Doncaster is now not such a Beacon.

  7. I don’t think it happens i know it happens, i have had experience of it. It is not the council as a whole who tell the planning officer just some of the people in control at the top. Granted not all councillors go along with the officers recommendations but i do know some people at the top in some councils tell or to put it politely advise the planning officer what kind of report they would like them to submit. “Loading the dice” then the councillors on the committee can say I’m not an expert so i am following the officers recommendation.

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