Live news updates: Fracking policy for N Yorkshire comes under scrutiny

171216 KM Eddie Thornton

Third Energy’s fracking site at Kirby Misperton, 16 December 2017. Photo: Eddie Thornton

Live updates from the Examination in Public of the Minerals and Waste Plan for North Yorkshire.

Today’s event, at County Hall in Northallerton, scrutinises policy proposals on fracking and onshore oil and gas that will be used to guide planning decisions until the 2030s in North Yorkshire, the City of York and the North York Moors National Park.

The Examination in Public gives the public, industry and campaigners the chance to argue in favour or against the draft document written by the local authorities

Today’s session, chaired by planning inspector, Elizabeth Ord, is expected to debate the definition of fracking, well density, set back distances of shale gas sites from homes and buffer zones around the national park.

It is expected to hear from representatives of the shale gas industry, Friends of the Earth and local campaign groups and the local authorities in the area.

Reporting on this event has been made possible by individual donations from DrillOrDrop readers. No filming or recording is allowed during the session.

5.43pm: Session closes

5.10pm: Other points

Mary Campbell, Frack Free Ryedale

Ms Campbell says valued landscapes are affected by the licensed areas, as well as the designated protected areas. It is a very special area.

She calls for a strengthened references to other plans. This currently reads “have regard”. Application decisions should be taken on the basis of the development plan as a whole. This would be a good thing to do to reassure local communities, she says.

Paul Andrews, Malton Town Council

Cllr Andrews says the significance of the Vale of Pickering should be taken into account. Local plans are often ignored by planning committees, he says. The text as it – having regard to local plans – is not good enough, he says. He says Ms Campbell’s proposal should be be accepted. Then it could be seen in no uncertain plan that the whole plans should be taken into account. “Please make that alteration”, he says.

Cllr Andrews says the wording should be strengthened to ensure that any development  going through the national infrastructure system takes account of the Ryedale plan.

Precautionary principle

The councils are asked whether there is any reference to the the principle. Scott Lyness, for the councils, says this is embedded in planning policy. He says there is no need for a separate requirement for the precautionary principle to be included in plan.

The council is also asked about a financial guarantee for damage during the life of the well, rather than after abandonment. Vicky Perkin, for the council, says the OGA deals with subsurface matters. BEIS is also looking at financial resilience, she says

Magnus Gallie, Friends of the Earth – the wolds and the Vale of Pickering

Mr Gallie refers to the high landscape characters and values of the Wolds and the Vale of Pickering. Both were mentioned in the refusal of a wind turbine scheme  by the Secretary of State. In the decision, the minister referred to the links between the Wolds, Vale of Pickering and National Park. Putting fracking in the Wolds would have an impact on the National Park. The Wolds should be included among protected areas where fracking is prohibited.

Scott Lyness, for the councils, stands by leaving the Wolds or Vale of Pickering out of the protected area list.

John Rose-Adams, Leavening Parish Council

Mr Rose-Adams says there is inconsistency about protection for groundwater. The principal aquifer has less protection than a groundwater source protection zone, he says.

Vicky Perkin, for the council, says the different policies in the plan have different focus.

John Clark, Ryedale Liberals

Mr Clark asks again how far the industry can drill horizontally.

He says there should be a minimum distance of exploration sites from an A or B roads. This would prevent vehicles getting stuck on narrow roads.

Elizabeth Ord asks the company representatives. Ken Cronin says it depends on geology. But it is working on 1.5-2.5km.

Tim Thornton, Ryedale Liberals

Dr Thornton, for 40 years a GP, much in Ryedale, says  he encouraged an independent health impact on fracking. “We need to discover how mild depression, noise and smells impact on someone’s well being”. The plan is silent on people and relies on pointers on the night time decibel level, he says. Noise is not simple, he says. The pitch and duration are relevant. We don’t know the impacts and regards to health we are not looking, he says.

“We don’t know. But what may be worse for our children and grandchildren is that we are not planning to look”.

Scott Lyness, for the councils, fracking plans require a health impact assessment.

Ian Conlon

Mr Conlon says the Ryedale Plan provides for a better level of protection for an industrial activity and it needs to be taken into consideration.

Elizabeth Ord says the Ryedale Plan and the county minerals plan are not incompatible.

5.09pm: Industrial and former coal sites

The policy says it will support developments on industrial and former coal sites. Ms Lieven says these sites are unlikely to exist. The intention of the policy should not preclude coal bed methane developments elsewhere, she says. Mr Lyness says a change is not necessary.

5.08pm: Conclusions on local economy

Elizabeth Ord says some flexibility will be added to this policy.

4.56pm: Local economy – lorry movements

Nathalie Lieven says restrictions on HGV movements during school holidays is not justified. The unintended consequences of this would be to push the large HGV movements into the school term. This should be dealt with by on a case-case basis, she says.

Vicky Perkins, for the council, says it would agree to text changes to reflect industry concerns. The reason for seasonal variation was to benefit the tourist industry. Road numbers spike in school holiday. It is good planning to move some lorries out of this busy period.

Elizabeth Ord asks if this applies to the whole area. The councils say they try to keep HGVs out of this busy period if it can be done. The inspector asks whether the wording should be changed to reflect this. Ms Lieven proposes traffic management plans to reflect seasonal variations and vulnerable users.

Scott Lyness, for the councils, says the spikes in traffic need to be dealt with.

Ian Conlon says he would be very concerned about convoys going through his village in school holiday. It is very distressing seeing the convoys going through minor roads. If it was during school term time children would not see them.

LIndsay Burr, of Ryedale District Council, says this is one of biggest concern of residents. The traffic management plan has not been successful for Kirby Misperton. Ryedale has a massive tourism area and it is very important to look at individual circumstances. The spike in traffic from Flamingo Land is unbelievable. To add in extra lorries for fracking is not acceptable. These communities need to be looked after.

Paul Andrews, Malton Town Council, says if fracking goes ahead as the industry wants that is the end of our tourism industry.

Sarah Houlston, Barugh Parish Council, says there has been no consultation with the parish council. We were told it was the police discretion when the routes were changed. The KM8 traffic management plan was not fit for purpose, she says.

4.44pm: Location near gas pipelines and water supplies

Nathalie Lieven, for the operators, says the policy says gas should be transmitted by pipeline and location of sites near water supplies. An absolute requirement is not consistent with policy, she says. They should be considerations, not requirement.

Vicky Perkin, for the council, says we would not envisage overground pipelines would be part of the proposals. She suggests the inclusion of “wherever possible” that pipelines should be underground.

Ms Lieven is more concerned about the water supply. In practice, water would be brought in for exploration, then piped water would be added for production. The policy needs flexibility, she says.

Ms Perkin says the policy is looking at adequate water supply rather than requiring road tanker transport.

Ms Lieven says developments should be not required to be located by adequate water supplies. Alan Linn, of Third Energy, says stages of the business need to be recognised.

Scott Lyness says the text can be amended to include the “feasibility” of water supply.

Chris Stratton, for South Hambleton villlages, raises a concern about the impact of site location on road transport.

Mary Campbell, for Frack Free Ryedale, says there could be a large volume of water taken offsite by bulk HGVs and this should be reflected in the policy.

4.43pm: Conclusion on pad density

Elizabeth Ord says there is nothing needed to change on the policy.

4.37pm: Questions on pad density

Christ Stratton for South Hambleton villages

Mr Stratton says communities are very concerned about cumulative impact. He says there a methodologies to indicate what a landscape can accommodate. This would give assurance and help the planning authority.

Margaret McSherry

Ms McSherry refers to a report by the Institute of Directors. 100 pads would generate 3.3m truck movements.

Ian Conlon

Mr Conlon says the industry have put figures in the public domain about the number of well pads plan. It is essential for public trust that we have clarity of what our planning authority is a test for cumulative impact.

Lindsey Burr, Ryedale District Council

Cllr Burr says people need some reassurance on numbers. We have no idea. This would give us an idea of the effect it would have on our community.

Paul Andrews, Malton Town Council

Cllr Andrews says the council’s indication is far too generous. It looks as if the council has sat down with the industry and asked how many pads it wants. The number should be reduced drastically, he says.

4.29pm: Pad density

Nathalie Lieven, for the operators, opposes the policy on pad density. She says this seeks to impose an “absolute limit” on pad density. This refers 10 pads in a 100 km of licence area.

The industry says there should not be limit on well pad density, she says. It is an arbitrary number, she says. It is perfectly possible to put 10 well pads in an area without any cumulative impact at all.

Scott Lyness, for the councils, says there is no limit on number of well pads in the plan. There is no policy limit. It is quite appropriate he says to give an indication in the policy to give a guide to what would be unacceptable. The supporting text makes this clear, he says.

Ms Lieven says there is an inconsistency in the council’s approach. It is totally inappropriate to put a figure into the text. It is intended to make the policy look tougher than it is.

Elizabeth Ord asks what is the source of the 10 well pads. The council says it has tried to give some kind of scale and what the industry might look like.

4.26pm: Inspector’s conclusion on other regimes

Elizabeth Ord says she does not believe this section is unsound.

Nathalie Lieven says text of the policy needs to be changed.

Ms Ord asks for some rewriting. She accepts what the councils is trying to do is ok. “I am quite happy with it”, she says.

4.06pm: Other regimes

Nathalie Lieven, for the operators, says plan policies on waste management, reinjection and decomissioning illegitimately stray into the areas of other regulators.

Local planning authorities should not cover the same areas as other regulators and that they should assume that other regimes will operator effectively. That approach is reflected in case law, Ms Lieven says,

Policies on seismicity are dealt with the Oil & Gas Authority. Waste and air and water quality are dealt with by the Environment Agency, she says.

It is inappropriate to have policies for the council to be satisfied that the issues have been met.

Scott Lyness, for the councils, says the planning authorities deal with the use of land but that does not mean they should not consider other factors. Overall planning judgement is for the authority, with the guidance of other specialist agencies, he says.

Mr Lyness says mineral planning authority takes a land use view of the development and impacts. They will need to be satisfied that they can be dealt with by other regulators. The industry position goes too far, Mr Lyness says. The draft plan strikes the right balance, he adds.

Ms Lieven, for the operators, says some re-drafting is needed. She says the draft plan policy does require North Yorkshire to carry out its own assessments and this is inconsistent with national policy.

Mary Campbell, Frack Free Ryedale, supports the councils on its position. This is backed up by the appeal decision in the Wressle case. The inspector upheld the council’s refusal on concerns about water contamination, despite the granting of an environmental permit.

John Clark, Ryedale Liberals, asks how much waste would be produced at KM8. If N Yorks has billions of gallons of waste this is the council’s responsibility, he says.

3.42pm: Unconventional operations in protected areas

Nathalie Lieven, for the operators, says they oppose the plan policy, which she says seeks to extend prohibition of operations in areas beyond national parks and AONB. These areas have their own policy protection and should not be the subject of an absolute ban.

Chris France says the plan extends the restriction to protected areas including the historic setting of York, battlefields, ancient monuments and registered gardens. These represent less than 1% of the hydrocarbon licensed areas, Vicky Perkin says.

Other protected areas, that the operators are seeking to delete, include designated sites that are in the government regulations. Deleting these from the plan policy would be unjustified, Scott Lyness, for the councils says. Mr Lyness says the councils have applied the national policy to local circumstances and the policy is justified.

Mr France says developments under the national park would constitute major development and would have to be justified in exceptional circumstances.  Ms Lieven, for the operator, says there was no evidence to justify the policy and it would not be possible to show there were exceptional circumstances.

Mr France says people are concerned about unknown underground impacts in the National Park, including seismicity and water contamination. Mr Lyness says the councils will make a representations on this issues.

3.41pm: Financial guarantee – inspector’s comment

Elizabeth Ord says she is satisfied that there are circumstances for a financial guarantee. She asks for a modification to explain when that should be required and how far the guarantee is intended to extend.

3.18pm: Other issues – financial guarantee

Elizabeth Ord asks for a justification for the financial guarantee.

Vicky Perkins, for the councils, says the nature of projects does not lend itself to restoration of sites.

Nathalie Lieven, for the operators, says there is nothing unusual about the surface restoration. There is no justification for a requirement for a financial guarantee of surface work, she says.

The council says it is not asking for a financial guarantee for sub-surface work.

Peter Fox , for South Hambleton villages, asks for financial guarantee for surface and sub-surface activity.

Mr Fox says the national guidance is out of date and unspecific. The Business Secretary has expressed his concern about the financial viability of companies involved in fracking. The guidance can cover fracking because it is a novel technique, he says. There is no science in the UK, he says, of the degradation of shale gas wells to protect the surrounding environment.

Mr Fox says there should be a strong up-front requirement. The current wording of the plan has not guidance, he says. The industry has a poor record of restoration, he says, referring to North Sea wells that have been not been restored. The industry is also financially unstable. The largest UK licence company, (INEOS) is so heavily debt-based that it is rated as junk. Only unequivocal guidance can give communities the reassurance they need.

Mary Campbell, Frack Free Ryedale, says the local planning authority is responsible for restoration. Without  a bond there is no guarantee that funds would be available. We would support a financial guarantee for surface and subsurface restoration, she says.

Ms Campbell says the planning authority should be satisfied that there is a guarantee or a bond required by another regulator before granting planning permission. Financial resilience can change, very quickly, she adds.

Cllr Paul Andrews, for Malton Town Council says the fracking industry in other parts of the world has a poor safety record and wells do fail. The public is entitled to look to the county council for protection. The other agencies are accountable to central government. They have not had a good record in this area, on fracking, for example.

Cllr Andrews refers to the debate in Ryedale last week, in which the vast majority of people who voted against a motion that regulation would make fracking safe. I don’t think anyone in this room accepts that fracking is safe, he says. All we are asking for is for someone to take responsibility for well failure after the company has abandoned the well. That can be secured only through a financial guarantee in the plan.

Matthew Dale-Harris, Friends of the Earth, supports the proposal for a financial guarantee. He says there are significant concerns around the country about the risk of financial failure.

3.08pm: Council offer on definitions

Scott Lyness, for the councils, offers to prepare a document on these issues. The council retains the view that the definition of fracking in the plan is justified and the distinction between conventional and unconventional should remain.

3pm: Public comments on conventional vs unconventional

Kit Bennett, Frack Free York

Mr Bennett says the distinction should remain. There are issues of more traffic, longer drilling and more waste. Unconventional developments would lead to more wells and greater industrialisation, he says. They should be dealt with separately.

Hydrocarbons may be found in limestones and sandstones, regarded as conventional. These may need to be fracked and would have similar impacts to unconventional developments. The distinction should remain.

He opposes several changes in the wording. There is a real risk of using unhelpful definitions. Using the Infrastructure Act definition for hydraulic fraturing would have excluded the Preece Hall well in Lancashire.

Cllr Paul Andrews, Malton Town Council

Cllr Andrews says fracking has to apply liquid at high pressure.

He raises the issue of a well pad every 1-2 miles under a density scheme approved by the council. Each pad will generate massive traffic. It will completely industrialise the whole area, he says.

Fracking needs multiple bore holes on pads. We are talking about 50 well pads across the Vale of Pickering, That is a considerable impact on this area. This discussion is unbelievable, he says.

Mary Campbell, Frack Free Ryedale

Ms Campbell says FFR supports the definition in the plan and says it is consistent with the planning practice guidance on minerals. The Infrastructure Act is to provide limits on restrictions on hydraulic fracturing. It is not to do with the planning system, she say.

The level has been set so high that many hydraulic fractures would not be covered by the Infrastructure Act definition. But the impacts of lower levels of volume are similar, she says.

Ms Campbell says it is not the responsibility of local planning authorities to monitor the volume of liquid used in fracking.

John Clark, Ryedale Liberals

Mr Clark says the definitions have to be resolved. He says we don’t want to have a conventional site operating with large volumes of liquid and high pressure to force the gas out.

Mr Clark says offshore fracking has been responsible for the massive methane cloud above the North Sea. We took the word of the industry that it was new.

2.50pm: Conventional vs unconventional

Chris France, for the councils, says the plan makes a distinction between conventional and unconventional on the impacts such as noise, number of wells, increased traffic. The plan says the impacts are likely to be greater for unconventional geology. The government has restricted activities from protected areas, he says.

The term unconventional is not restricted for shale gas. It could include coal bed methane and underground coal gasification, he says.

We think the plan is fully justified, Mr France says for the councils.

Nathalie Lieven, for the operators, says the distinction is in the technique, not the geology. That serves no planning purpose and is not reflected in national planning policy.

Vicky Perkin, for the councils says the distinction comes from planning practice guidance which does make a distinction.

Planning inspector, Elizabeth Ord, says no distinction has been made in other plans she has dealt with. She says she can’t see a great difference between conventional and unconventional developments.

Ms Perkin says the councils are trying to avoid putting unnecessary burden on companies applying for conventional gas operations.

2.49pm: Comments from the floor

Kit Bennett, of Frack Free York, says he is concerned that definitions are being agreed between the industry and council without hearing the views of the community. Our input on the issues is just as valuable as the industry, he says. He urges the council not to make any decision without hearing all the views.

2.18pm: Definitions

Nathalie Lieven, for the operators, says the distinction between conventional and unconventional is a geological one about the ease of extracting hydrocarbons.

She says there will be more noise from fracturing and more lorries. But these are short-term day-time impacts, she says.

Ms Lieven says the definition of hydraulic fracturing in the policy should be aligned with that in the Infrastructure Act. This is repeated by Ken Cronin, of the industry body UK Onshore Oil Gas.

The plan regards fracking as the splitting of the geology and does not depend on the requirement in the Infrastructure Act for fracking to use 1,000m3+ of liquid per stage or 10,000m3+ in total.

Ms Lieven says the different definition makes the plan unsound.  She says that low volume hydraulic fracturing is common in onshore oil and gas. That’s why the volume definition is important.

Scott Lyness, for the councils, says the draft plan looks at a broader definition than that of associated hydraulic fracturing in the Infrastructure Act.

Mr Lyness says Government regulations on surface impacts issued in 2016 apply not just to associated hydraulic fracturing but to hydraulic fracturing generally.

This means, he says, the protection given in policy terms to fracking that does not meet the associated hydraulic fracturing definition is the same. We don’t think the plan should use the Infrastructure Act definition, Mr Lyness says. He says volumes under 1,000m3 per stage or 10,000m3 in total would escape the definition and would not count as fracking.

Ms Lieven says the operators would accept the definition of fracking in the minerals planning guidance, providing it applied only to shale.

2.16pm: Questions

Elizabeth Ord invites questions. Frack Free Ryedale ask if they can have a say in the rewording of the 500m policy.

Chris Stratton, for south Hambleton villages, urges the inspector should pay attention to the comments of local communities.

2.15pm: Hearing resumes

1.26pm: Break for lunch

The session resumes at 2.15pm.

1.11pm: Inspector’s comments and questions on 500m buffer zone

Elizabeth Ord says she is concerned about the lack of flexibility with a 500m buffer. She says there is a potential sterilising effect but she has no evidence on this.

She says the 500m distance doesn’t seem to be based on any evidence. I can’t see any particular difference between Yorkshire and other rural areas. She says:

“For those reasons I am struggling with the 500m”

Scott Lyness, for the councils, says they would not support losing the 500m buffer zone. A line has to be drawn, he says. There is evidence of low background noise levels, he says. This has informed the judgement, along with topography and the nature of the impacts.

The government sees the need to provide reassurance to local communities, Mr Lyness says.

Ms Ord says she doesn’t like the words “exceptional circumstances”.

Mr Lyness proposes alternative wording and says there would be still justification for keeping 500m.

Nathalie Lieven, for the operators, says the policy should follow West Sussex which refers to mitigating  impacts to acceptable levels. There should be no distance, she says. In 2016, this council gave permission for fracking within 250m of the nearest dwelling. Plan-led systems do not give residents the chance to block an industry. 500m is not based on evidence.

Ms Lieven says there is evidence of what a 500m buffer zone to areas that don’t have to show exceptional circumstances. There are very small areas where an application would not have to show exceptional circumstances. That is powerful evidence of a sterilising effect, she says. It is an unacceptable policy.

Scott Lyness, for the councils, says there is not strong evidence of a sterilising effect because there is a degree of flexibility.

Elizabeth Ord says there is nothing tangible in the support for 500m.

Mr Lyness says the councils do not accept it is a blanket ban on development within 500m. Losing that figure as a concept removes the clarity and consistent decision-making.

Ms Ord asks for more justification and asks for a written submission on why the 500m buffer needs to stay in. She also asks for amended wording on the policy.

1pm: Public comments on 500m buffer zones around homes

Kit Bennett, Frack Free York, says the industry should take account of homes and local residents

Cllr Paul Andrews, for Malton Town Council, asks why is the difference between fracking and conventional oil and gas. He says fracking requires fracturing and extraction from the immediate area, with as many bores as are needed. This means noise of continuous drilling all the time in order to develop the 50 well bores. That can carry on for 15 years continuously. That indstrialises the area where fracking is taking place. It is time the industry accepted this.

Ian Conlon says a woman in Third Energy had been offered double-glazing because of drilling noise from Kirby Misperton. People did notice drilling at KM8. Another friend from another well could not sleep because of light pollution.

John Clark says the traffic management plan for KM8 has failed. I am not convinced that large loaders trapped on a listed-bridge is safe. This is before we have started fracking. The implication that is safe is stretching the imagination, he says.  We have not even started on fracking.

Matthew Dale-Harris, Friends of the Earth, says FOE has engaged with the Environment Agency on breaches. There have been significant breaches on the noise and problems with the traffic management plan.

Scott Lyness, for the councils, says, it is a core principal that plans should be local-led. National policy requires the highest environmental standard. It is consistent with national policy to establish where developments can take place to protect residential amenity. We say it is appropriate to apply national guidance to local circumstances with low noise levels, flat topography, rural areas. A high level of protection could be achieved with the buffer zones. It is a clear and justifiable framework, he says.

12.53pm: Third Energy’s operation

Elizabeth Ord asks Third Energy about its operation.

Alan Linn, the operations director of Third Energy, says the Kirby Misperton well, KM8, was drilled 250m away from the nearest farm and close to Kirby Misperton. No one knew we werre drilling that well [laughter from the audience]. When it comes to hydraulic fracturing, there are noise limitations, he says. There is monitoring at farms and the village. At night, we are allowed to go to 35db at night and 45db in the day.

There has been a lot of traffic. It is an exploration site so it is temporary by nature. We don’t know for certain that they can be recovered. We are working with the government to minimise the impact, he says. We are an industrial industry and there s is some disturbance.

Elizabeth Ord asks Mr Linn about difference between KM8 ad Third Energy’s site. Mr Linn says the past work was on conventional sites. The unconventional gas is cleaner than the conventional gas, which has hydrogen sulphide in it. We’ve had complaints about smell from the conventional business. There is no smell in the unconventional gas and we don’t think this will be an issue, he says.

It is our intention not to flare from KM8, he says. The intention is to generate electricity. We are very conscious of the environmental footprint.

Location is extremely important to us. It would be wrong to say you can drill anywhere. It is very location-dependent, less so than with conventional gas, but still location-dependent, he says.

We believe we can do the hydraulic fracturing safely, he says, without impact on the environment.

12.38pm: 500 buffer zone from homes – inspector’s question

Elizabeth Ord national planning policy supports case-by-case decisions. Why is N Yorkshire different. Could there be a sterilisation of large areas for the industry because of the buffer.

Scott Lyness, for the councils, says the policy is justified because it recognises national guidance that local communities should shape the plan-led system and provides reassurance to communities.

It is justified to have a policy which points out where development is likely to be allowed he says. There is no dispute that fracking will have impacts. This is unlikely at 500m.

It doesn’t mean there will be no development within 500m, Mr Lyness says.

Ms Ord asks about the wording which means development would not be permitted except for “in exceptional circumstances”. Mr Lyness says companies could bring applications that can show there will be a high level of protection then the exceptional circumstances would apply.

Nathalie Lieven says this places the burden on the development. The suggestion that this policy would not have a sterilising effect is wrong, she says. It is wrong to say that hydraulic fracturing is not subject to spatial constraint. Hydraulic fracturing is as constrained as other forms of mineral extraction, including location of fault lines.

Ms Lieven says the national policy test is not whether there is any impact but whether there is unacceptable impact. Third Energy has drilled wells within 500m of homes and not breached their noise conditions. It happens now. The drilling environment is no different between conventional and unconventional operations. There have not been breaches of air quality at Kirby Misperton, she says.

There is a whole regime of planning conditions on noise and EA controls on pollution of air and water which would ensure no unacceptable impacts. It is contrary to national policy and without evidence.

12.15am: 500 buffer zone from homes – other parties

Friends of the Earth

Matthew Dale-Harris says Friends of the Earth supports the buffer zone around homes. We don’t accept the buffer would have a sterilising effect and do not make the policy unsound.

John Clark, Ryedale Liberals

Mr Clark says he doesn’t know how the industry can say that different rigs produce different sound levels. Is the industry going to inflict greater levels of noise on people who are less likely to object, he says.

The industry is wanting to do it at 50m from someone’s back garden, he says. Let’s start with something that we can then change. If we start at 500m, we can move it down. If we do it on a case-by-case basis there will be no plan, he says. We haven’t heard any evidence about 500m should come down, he adds.

Can we have some facts from the industry about why this buffer cannot stop at 500m proposed.

Mary Campbell, Frack Free Ryedale

Ms Campbell supports the 500m buffer. It is justified, she says. The guidance is consistent with the highest environmental standards required in the written ministerial statement.

Kit Bennett, Frack Free York

Mr Bennett says 500m buffer zone should be consider for air pollution. If buffer zones are required for wind turbines, they are definitely required for shale gas sites, with air pollution and odour concerns. Larger buffer zones should be needed for villages than individual homes.

Christopher Stratton, South Hambleton

Mr Stratton says national planning policy says minerals can be exploited only where they are found, not wherever they are found.

He says the 500m is inflexible and insufficient. The group suggests 500m for one or two isolated dwellings or 1.5km for more dwellings or 3km where the homes are overlooked.

John Rose-Adams, Leavening Parish Council

Mr Rose-Adams says the buffer zone seeks to protect residents of villages. We know the industry is disruptive. Any resident is seeking to reduce disruption.

Ian Conlon, West Malton Residents

The Kirby Misperton site said at the outset it would break air pollution limits but this was allowed because it was temporary, Mr Conlon says. The protection of a 500m buffer is needed because thousands of wells are not temporary, he says. It took the county council five years to designate an air quality area. Residents don’t have five years. We need to do this as a precautionary principle.

Lindsay Burr, Ryedale District Council

The council opposes removal of the buffer, she says. Residents’ welfare is paramount. We have the right to live 500m from industrial development. A buffer should mean a buffer. We need to reassure the local community on the impact of their communities. She supports the idea of 1.5km buffers. National support for shale gas is there, she says, but not to the detriment of residents, surely, she says.

Cllr Paul Andrews, Malton Town Council

Cllr Andrews says a neighbour had to listen to Third Energy drilling for three months. That is evidence, he says. The national policy of production of shale gas could “potentially bring substantial benefits”. That is a very weak policy, he says. He says this should be disregarded. The 500m buffer distance or 1.5km separation distance is in line with government policy.

12.11am: 500 buffer zone from homes – operators

Nathalie Lieven for the operator says the 500m buffer is unjustified, no evidence and contrary to national policy.

This would be an absolute test, she says. There is no national support for a test. The impact would be to largely impose an exceptional circumstance test across the whole licence area. There are properties across the relevant area, she says. For a large part of the licence area there would be an exceptional circumstances test.

There may be no or minimal visual impact on properties in some examples, given topography or trees, she says. On noise, she says, there is a test in national policy. Noise has to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.  This would be affected in topography and infrastructure. This undermines the need for a blanket ban.

This policy should be removed, she says.

12.02am: 500m buffer zone from homes – council position

Scott Lyness, for the councils, says the 500m buffer zone around homes is not an absolute measure for every circumstance.

The plan says development within 500m of homes will not be allowed except for in exceptional circumstances.

This should be seen in the context of government attempts at assurance about developments in their area, Mr Lyness says. The government sees the merit to seeing the clear guidance on where development can take place and this policy is a local expression of that direction.

Hydrocarbon development will be accompanied by lighting of rigs, rigs of up to 50m or more, increased sound, large acoustic barriers, 24-operations and traffic.

A 500m buffer is appropriate to reassure local communities, Mr Lyness says. In N Yorkshire background noise may be very low. This distance is appropriate for an area with these low noise levels and flat topography.

Mike Slater, representing the City of York, says noise levels in rural areas can be below 35 decibels in the day and lower at night. Safeguarding local communities is important. Background noise should not be exceeded by 10db on background levels. This distance is an appropriate balance. It may that lower distances could be appropriate but in some areas it should be more.

12 noon: Session resumes

11.40am: Break

11.35am: Buffer zones: conclusion

Elizabeth Ord says she thinks there should be a zone but she wants it to be more flexible. She supports Friends of the Earth’s point on the need for assessments outside the 3.5km zone. She says the zone should remain. The 3.5km should be a guide, rather than an absolute, she says.

Nathalie Lieven, for the operators, says residents see the zone as a substantive test, not an enhanced assessment area. There is a real confusion in the language which will not help anyone, she says. She calls for a clarification in the language. Ms Ord agrees people need to be clear about the purpose of the zone.

Buffer zones – reaction

The draft plan proposes a 3.5km zone around the North York Moors National Park and areas of outstanding natural beauty where there would be enhanced landscape assessments.


11.33am: Friends of the Earth

Matthew Dale-Harris, for Friends of the Earth,  says the 3.5km buffer zone is very important. It will help inform the search for sites. We don’t think it is contrary to national policy or unjustified, he says.

He says the councils are entitled to the require high levels of environmental standards. Any changes should make it clear that landscape and visual assessments might be needed outside a 3.5km area. Much taller rigs have been used before than the 35m rig used as the basis of the 3.5km distance.

11.29am: John Clark, Ryedale Liberals

Cllr Clark, of Ryedale Liberals, says it doesn’t matter what a buffer zone is called.

He says the industry is novel, planning for it has to be experimental and has to have an element of caution.

He adds: We think it is better that sheep suffer the impacts of fracking, rather than people.

You need to have something you can measure, he says. Let’s have 3.5km that we can assess later. Unless the industry can tell us how far they can drill horizontally, what difference does this make to them. Big industries don’t like local democratic plans. They get in their way, he says.

11.26am: Ian Conlon, West Malton Against Fracking

Mr Conlon says he lives in a buffer zone. His community spent 18 months fighting a housing application on visual impact. The rigs would be much higher than housing. People come to visit the area for the landscape. They also come for tranquility.

The rigs are very noisy. The county council could have enforced the lowest noise limit but it did not, he says. They didn’t have the expertise, partly, he says. He calls for a higher buffer zone on noise and landscape reasons.

The industry has failed to demonstrate that their rigs will be less intrusive or polluting than feared. Across the world, they have not demonstrated there will be not be great impacts. In the absence of evidence showing this is safe, we need these buffer zones.

11.24: Cllr Lindsay Burr, Ryedale District Council

Cllr Burr says a buffer zone may not be relevant in one area but it would be highly relevant in Ryedale.

The buffer zone, if anything, needs to be extended, she says. The Ryedale area has a big tourism area. The buffer is a protection for our residents, she says. This has been highlighted by our council, she says. We are asking you to think about each individual area.

11.2am: Cllr Paul Andrews, Malton Town Council

Cllr Andrews says the proposed wells sites will be about 2ha and could have 20-50 well bores. It will take 100 days of drilling for each well, 24-hours a day, lit at night. To drill 15 wells would take continuous drilling for 15 years to thoroughly exploit the resource. It will be a blot on the landscape, he says. 3.5km is far too short, bearing in mind the height of the AONB and National Park view points.

11.19am: Mary Campbell, Frack Free Ryedale

Ms Campbell says the setting of the national park and AONB is required by national planning policy. We believe the plan is clearer than using “in close proximity” to. It will give clear guidance to industry when it is doing its feasibility work. Much of the work is done at that stage. It is important that the work is done in appropriate areas.

There is likely to be pressure around the national park, she says. The plan does provide clear guidance and certainty to local people. It also reflects local circumstannces she says

11.16am: Chris Stratton, South Hambleton villages

Mr Stratton, representing villages in the Hambleton Hills. The villages support the buffer zones. They would be affected by shale gas developments.

He supports very strongly the concept of buffer zones. There should be no wells in 1.5km of a national park or AONB, with a greater test within 2km.

11.12am: Kit Bennett, Frack Free York

Mr Bennett says he is unhappy that policy is being negotiated between the companies and the councils.

Mr Bennett says he wants to retain buffer zones around the national park. He says the session should be looking at a 6km buffer because rigs proposed by INEOS at 60m high. He says proposals by INEOS suggest there will be prolonged impact on landscape.

There should be an impact on the wildlife designation of the national park, as well as the landscape. The North York Moors National Park includes a Special Area of Conservation and Special Protection Area.

10.40am: Operators and the council on the 3.5km buffer

Ms Lieven says the proposed 3.5km buffer around the National Park has no evidential basis, she says. A distinction is drawn between conventional and unconventional development is not justified in evidence, she says.

Ms Ord invites the council to respond.

Council response

The councils’ representative, Scott Lyness, says there is no prohibition of development in the 3.5km around the park.. It is designed to ensure there is proper scrutiny that could affect the designated areas. It would not prevent development next to the park or AONB. It is entirely appropriate to provide scrutiny, he says. The proposal is not about setting an independent different test but to how and where attention needs to be focused in an application.

Chris France, who worked on the plan for the authorities, says the development requires special attention because of its intrusiveness and intensity. If it was not, why would the government have banned it from national parks, he says. The idea of buffer zones exists in other planning policy, he says, including world heritage sites. It is supported in statues, including the Environment Act and government circular on national parks.

Mark Hill for the councils says the distance of 3.5km was chosen because of industry concerns. We have tried to make it easier for the industry to know where to concentrate landscape attention and its development, he session hears. Drilling rigs used by the industry meausring  35m have an impact over 3.5km.

Nathalie Lieven’s response

Ms Lieven says there is no comparison with wind farms, where turbines are higher and rigs are in place for a short time. We are not arguing against taking account of the national park setting. What the council is trying to do is establish an arbitrary distance where additional tests have to be met. This creates an extra hurdle.

Ms Lieven says the West Sussex Minerals Plan requires planners to take account of the setting of the AONB. That is a wholly conventional and acceptable policy, she says.

The council responds that it is not an additional test. All it is saying this is a zone within which additional assessment will be made. He says the councils are not comparing oil and gas with wind farms.

Elizabeth Ord questions

Elizabeth Ord asks whether each application should be looked at individually. The councils say that will happen but the policy allows for flexibility. It says a 3.5km buffer zone requires an assessment.

Ms Ord says the impact will depend on topography. She asks whether a blanket buffer is too great a hurdle. The council says if you inside the 3.5km you are more likely to need an assessment. If you are outside then you are less likely to need the assessment.

Ms Ord asks whether there is anything in national policy that would prevent this. Nathalie Lieven says she’s not aware of anything. She says it is a constraint on the development of shale gas. The fact that there is nothing barring a policy does not justify its inclusion.

Ms Ord says 3.5km seems inflexible. She asks whether there is something that can achieve what is wanted with alternative wording. Ms Lieven refers to a clause in minerals planning policy guidance. The councils says this type of buffer zone has a different purpose from that proposed in the N Yorkshire plan.

Ms Ord says she doesn’t like the 3.5km distance.Chris France, for the councils, says this distance gives guidance. It is not the job of a local plan to replicate another part of the county or national policy. The area covered by the N Yorkshire plan is unique in its landscape sensitivity.

The buffer zone is highlighting the sensitivity of the landscape, he says. Shale gas is not necessarily temporary, Mr France says. It is justified to give this extra protection, he says.

Ms LIeven, who recommends the deletion of the policy, says the use of the word “buffer zone” is a problem. If it is entirely an area for enhanced assessment then the words should be changed. The councils say it would retain the reference to a 3.5km zone and look at the wording and there would be a degree of flexibility built in.

10.38am: Company comments – unjustified constraint

Planning inspector, Elizabeth Ord, invites Nathalie Lieven for the operators to give their specific comments.

Ms Lieven says the operators believe the policy is not sound because it is inconsistent with national policy in places and lack of evidence. We do not accept the plan strikes an appropriate balance. There is an wholly unjustified constraint on the development of shale gas in the area.


10.30am: Climate change

Planning inspector, Elizabeth Ord, the discussion had decided the draft plan needed to be beefed up on the issue of climate change. An over-arching comment would be inserted into the plan on climate change, she says.

The councils’ representative,Scott Lyness, says wording could be added to two policies in the plan.

Nathalie Lieven QC representing the operators, says the climate change policies in the plan should be related to the development, not the use of the hydrocarbons.

John Clark, representing Ryedale Liberals, suggests a total carbon footprint of any operation should be looked at. The carbon footprint of operations will vary hugely, he says. He adds that methane is now regarded as having a bigger impact over a shorter timescale than previously thought. The plan should insist on green completions – collecting gas not flaring or venting gas – he says.

Matthew Dale-Harris, of Friends of the Earth, welcomes the changes to the plan.

Margaret McSherry says fracking or unconventional oil or gas were not referred to in the Clean Growth Stratetgy and this should be considered.

10.28am: Key issues

Planning officer, Elizabeth Ord, says she wants to turn to specific issues.

10.11am: Questions on oil and gas

Planning officer, Elizabeth Ord, turns to key issues on oil and gas. She asks how the plan on hydrocarbons is consistent with national policy.

The authorities – “balance between national need and protection”

The councils’ representative, Scott Lyness, says the plan sets out the key policies and criteria on oil and gas. There is a balance between the national need to explore for shale gas and the need to protect the environment.

Cllr Paul Andrews, of Malton Town Council – “no need for shale gas”

Cllr Andrews, asks what is national policy and the weight that should be attached to a written ministerial statement of 2015. He asks for the discussions to focus on the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) alone. The written ministerial statement is designed to overrule local democracy, he says. It has been overtaken by another document published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on gas supply, which assumes no shale gas for security estimates. There is no need for shale gas, he says.

Cllr Andrews says the written ministerial statement is out of date and misleading. Ministerial statements of this kind are usually followed by circulars that are subject to public consultation. This statement didn’t go through that process so it shouldn’t be given as much weight as the NPPF. He asks that the inspector disregard the written ministerial statement and make her decision on the NPPF.

John Clark, Ryedale Liberals

Cllr Clark, a member of Ryedale District Council, says the plan must be safe for public health and the environment. The plan is one of the first to set policy for fracking, he says. Because it deals with experimental processes, is itself experimental and must be monitored, he says. It will then help to inform

Mr Clark says if you are going to do fracking anywhere and monitor then you ought to be doing it as far away from people as possible. There is a danger by not doing it in the national park of doing it in towns and villages around the edge of the park. There is likely to be fracking around the edge. We need to know from the industry, is it planning to fracking around the edge of the park – or can they move it further away. He says he is not in favour of experimenting with villages.

10.06am: Councils’ opening position

The representative for the councils, Scott Lyness, begins his case.

He says there has to be a balance between the support for hydrocarbons and protecting local communities, environment and heritage interests. The draft plans strikes an appropriate balance between competing aspirations, he says.

On national policy, he says the authorities don’t question the government’s support for onshore hydrocarbons. The written ministerial statements, National Planning Policy Framework and minerals planning policy all require planners to protect the environment.

We say when taking into account national policy an appropriate balance has been struck, he says.

10am: Session begins

Planning inspector, Elizabeth Ord, opens the session on hydrocarbons.

Ms Ord says some participants have refused to take part if they were filmed giving evidence. She gives permission for the BBC to film the opening of the session.

Ms Ord says her remit is limited. Government policy has said it wants to explore for hydrocarbons. There is nothing I can do about that today, she says. What I am looking at is whether what the local councils have put in the local plan complies with government policy. It is not debate about shale gas or fracking.

9.30am: People arriving

Representatives from the industry, local authorities and campaign groups take their seats.

NYCC logo

Reporting on this event has made possible by individual donations from DrillOrDrop readers

35 replies »

  1. Wow. Pennsylvania turns Democrat and Martin admits that sunlight is free. Two blows to Trump on the same day!

    • Easy Philip P don’t get carried away, Martin’s account has clearly been hacked by some fancy bears from Russia. Trolls hacking trolls, this could be the start of an infinite causality loop, I wounded if we could use it as a renewable source of energy.

      • Like a Russian troll universe you mean? One inside another inside another? Ad fracking nauseum?
        Multiple redundancy?

        A giant frack hole with a non event horizon?

        Professor Steven Hawking would have a field day?

        Farewell Steven, now you can run and fly!

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