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.”


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. Any way you look at it, the anti-frackers are losing and society is winning. It’s great that their proposition was defeated, but it matter little in the long run because these are nationally significant decisions and are going to be adjudicated at the national level.

  2. Nice to see your investments in the N. Sea are doing well John. Shame about the costs for those topping up their motors or about to receive their gas bills.
    Interesting that one of the staunch antis seems to be more interested in preventing the POSSIBILITY of more economic/secure energy supplies rather than against fossil fuel per se. Competition is good for the consumer.

    Yes, GBK, I had no doubt about your location, and to be honest it was of no concern to me anyway, as there are many antis who post who would have all the hallmarks of not being from the UK. It was simply a means of bringing a certain anti away from his fallback position of trying to play the person rather than the ball. (The ball being the council meeting that was abandoned.) Lovely place north of the border, still got many friends around Grangemouth and Aberdeen, so enjoy their perspective on the current realities as well.
    Will probably be very different in a few years time after Brexit. Middle class Remoaner voters unlikely to vote Corbyn again, after Brexit, but working class Labour Leave voters unlikely to go back to Labour who refused to represent their concerns about lost jobs and excess labour holding down wages. Not certain the young vote will stick with a 70+ leader either. (Excuse my use of class and age, but it was quicker than a “politically correct” version.)

  3. Any way you look at it, the anti-frackers are winning. As the anti frackers get more organised & the public get to hear the true facts about fracking and not the PR fiction public opinion is turning against fracking. The costs are rising investors are getting nervous,Conservatives in Brexit & NHS Chaos Labour are ahead in the polls, all it will take is a few more By-elections or a general election and fracking will be dead in the water. If you have investments in companies committed to fracking i strongly suggest you cut your losses and get out while you can.

  4. Shirebrookantifrack-all very interesting, but reality is a little different. As Ineos has no investors where would the nervous ones be? (Any finance input into Ineos would hardly have any reason to be nervous taking into account their performance.) Third Energy is owned by Barclays Bank and few investors in Barclays Bank would be there because of Third Energy. Cuadrilla are drilling away nicely, if slowly, so I would expect any investors there are happier than they have been for a couple of years, and the Australian market is improving for AJL.) I think the nervous ones might be those who wanted the N.Sea to be given a free ride.

    By-elections will make absolutely no difference to fracking, Labour and the Tories are neck and neck-which is bad for Labour who should be 20 points ahead (if Polls actually mean anything.) A General Election is some years off, most probably, so initial tests should have been done and dusted. That could work against the Tories, or it could be devastating for the parties that have been active against fracking, then trying to explain how they tried to block jobs and industrial growth. (I try and keep off speculation but you did lead me there.)

    Do you mean you have not been telling the public the true facts about fracking for the last few years? Surprising admission, as most of the “facts” as you call them have been from the anti side. Those who are still unconvinced, who tell me that, largely await the real facts ie. what will come out of the ground and will it benefit them in their pockets. Yes, capitalism is a nuisance like that, but the alternatives are a great deal worse.

  5. Martin time will tell who’s reality is different.
    A by-election in a fracking area can make a difference. All it takes is a good swing, a big Tory loss and the next thing you know we have some MP;s with a small majority looking very nervous. The calls to drop the hot potato will get louder.
    We have the Tory’s now trying to look green.big plastic manufacturers like Ineos are now coming into the spot light.
    China is now refusing to take our plastic waste.
    Plastic usage is under the spot light, potential for a plastic tax
    Green energy is on the rise in contrast carbon energy consumption is falling.
    Jobs The production of Green energy employs far more people than Gas Fracking. Fracking companies bring in the staff to an area they ship them in for the period required then they ship them off to another area.
    The only thing that rises in the area fracked are pollution rates ill health, cancer rates and sexually transmitted infection from a well paid transient workforce.
    Who’s pockets will benefit ?now you have opened a can of worms, one thing for sure it will not be joe public.
    The gas if any would depend on what type of gas is found (Wet or dry gas) and they have no idea what type of gas a fracked well would produce. Dry gas has low amounts of contaminants wet gas is full of lots of contaminants /chemicals and is only good for plastic production.
    Dry gas will be sold on the open market at the market price so no cheap or discounted gas for the uk. ( that fact is from the horses mouth in answer to a question asked at an Ineos presentation)
    The volumes of gas expected from uk fracking is tiny when compared to the world market on which it will be sold, so it will not drive down the market price to make cheap gas for joe public.
    Green renewable energy is the future. New super battery power stations are being built (Sheffield) where they store electricity generated during the day for use at peak demand times.
    We often see the wind farms not turning on breezy days because they are being paid not to generate due to over production, as battery technology progresses so will green energy.
    Houses and electrical appliances are getting more and more energy efficient.
    The need for carbon fuels including fracked gas will get less and less.
    Yes opposition to fracking is a nuisance for some and the alternatives to fracked gas are a great deal better.

    • Shirebrook
      You have covered a large number of points, many of which have been aired here before.

      A few thoughts on some of them

      1. STDs. Fracking in the UK can utilise the existing local work force to do the civils ( site construction and so on ), transport is UK based in the main ( as shown by examples of contractors being scared off) and drilling is almost local ( from Chesterfield for example ).

      Notable most people seen on frack sites ( civils, drivers, security ) do not earn more than the average. The higher paid staff such as drillers, roustabouts, mud loggers etc and better paid than average, but are not as numerous.

      There is no evidence that there will be a large transient workforce will turn up and cause local problems any more than there has been for the Olympic stadium , cross rail, and looking forwards to HS2 and any new nuclear power station!

      Onshore wind farm installers are transient, as are solar farm installers. Solar panel installers on a roof may be local to within 50 miles or so. I do not see that renewables is any more local than frack gas ( but happy to find out ).

      2. More jobs in renewables

      That would need some data based on jobs per GWH perhaps. My gut feel is that, as fracking is more intensive than renewables, there are more jobs for civils, driving drilling and fracking than for solar and wind.
      I have no axe to grind either way, has someone data on this issue?

      3. Wet and dry gas

      Cuadrilla will have a good idea of gas composition, but better after they drill the horizontal sections. INEOS have yet to drill!
      Dry gas is gas, that at regular temperature and pressure has no liquid components, and is sometimes called pipeline gas. It will have some other constituents such as Ethane, heavier hydrocarbons and CO2.
      Wet gas is dry gas with heavier Hydrocarbon compounds on a liquid phase. To pop that gas into the grid the liquids have to be separated from the gas. The separated components are Butane, Propane and Ethane.

      So wet gas is fine, as long as you make it dry to compress it and put it in a pipe.

      It is not true that wet gas is only good for plastic production. Lots of NS and Norwegian gas is wet. It’s treated and we burn it at home and in our power stations, ditto N!Sea

      4. Gas on the world market

      UK frack gas will be sold into the UK market ( into the pipeline ) at UK market price, unlike oil which is sold at global market prices. Therefore a large increase in supply would drop,the price, all other thinks being equal ( such as demand ).

      So it is not right to say UK frack gas will be sold on the world market, as we would need to produce more than we need as a country, liquefy it and then ship it to someone who can accept it ( and wants it ).

      My opinion is that the volumes will not drag the price down, and that, if it is not economic, there will not be an industry.

      5. The Sheffield batteries have been installed to smooth the grid, as renewables are making it hard keep the frequency in a suitable range. They absorb or give out power while the grid is balanced ( turbines turned Up or down etc ). Good though they are, they are nowhere near the storage capacity of pumped storage schemes, for example. So we have a way to go to store the energy somewhere when we produce too much.

      Good to see EON leading the charge in balancing the grid. I am sure better storage will get better, and better.

      All for now.

  6. I think you will find the sexually transmitted diseases are just as much about local people with higher disposable income spending it on alcohol, and hey presto. Hope so, as our local solar farm was constructed by transient Polish workers! I’m not sure they would be happy to be referred to as a reservoir of STDs. And, in terms of local jobs, the panels came from China!

    Think you will find UK will shortly be able to set it’s own energy prices-if it wanted. Indeed, it already does in terms of some sources. Not sure how antis can advocate financial support for green energy and then try and imply there is some wall preventing that being done in other areas.

    Before you jump on the plastic bandwagon, just check out where the huge majority of plastic in the oceans comes from (10 rivers-none anyway near UK.) Yes, we use too much plastic when we don’t need to, but it is the disposal of that plastic which is the biggest problem-just look along motorway verges. If we didn’t collect and treat our natural waste that goes down our toilets, would we not say that was the problem, rather than the problem was we produced it in the first place? Not sure even China would go back to a one child policy.

    World oil usage is scheduled to continue to rise for decades to come, alongside alternatives. Inconvenient, but true.

    • Thanks francis.
      ‘Fuel poverty in England is measured using the Low Income High Costs indicator, which considers a household to be fuel poor if:
       they have required fuel costs that are above average (the national median level);
       were they to spend that amount, they would be left with a residual income below the official poverty line.’

      This is one a misnomer and two a meaningless figure. In essence it says you are in fuel poverty if you have to use more fuel than the average user and by doing so this will cost you so much that your income will be below the poverty line. This would suggest low income earners in poorly maintained properties; or even someone who lives in a huge drafty house that has fallen on hard times?

      Well let’s first address the second criteria. If we in the 21st century think it is okay to have a poverty line and the potential for people to fall below it for whatever reason then our system is clearly broken. It’s a disgrace.

      Secondly, if the fuel costs are so high then there should be clear process in place to rectify this by providing alternative accommodation, better insulation and better buildings per say. In the meantime top ups should be provided immediately to these households.

      So, this misnomer has been bandied around to justify shale extraction. Clearly the cost of shale gas will far exceed that of North Sea gas and LNG imports. Shale will not take away the poverty; indeed it will increase it. Renewable energy systems take people out of the control of the few and into independence. A caring and less greedy system will improve the lives of many, not more fossil fuel.

      A scheme in West Lancs recently to provide solar panels on roofs of their rental properties has helped offset costs bringing those on low income into a better fuel environment and reduced energy costs to the occupants. Again a better prospect to create policy to roll this out to all council properties and all sub-standard private rental properties until the greedy landlords can be instructed to remedy their ‘investments’. That way, even those on lower incomes can have a warm home for their family and not be put in the embarrassing position of asking for handouts.

      • Sherwulf
        I agree. Better to insulate homes or put solar panels on if possible to reduce heat loss and or provide power.
        Better to let the free market determine energy prices while providing seed money for appropriate tech development, be it battery storage, local nuclear or whatever

        I also note that private landlords are not doing a good job it seems. Rather than filling builder CEO pockets with cash via Osbournes ‘help to sell. … new houses only’, Councils should be encouraged to build, using existing building companies who would like a 10% margin but could get along with less, not the 25% Persimmon et al seem to have.

        While bad news for buy to let investors ( again ) and those invested in the traditional house building, it would be good for the country. Easy to pop solar panels on them as well.

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