Statement to North Yorkshire County Council Planning and Regulatory Functions Committee considering Third Energy planning application to frack at Kirby Misperton, 20 May 2016
As a town councillor in Helmsley, I have over the last year done my best to inform and consult with local people about fracking. Because nobody else seemed to be doing that.
I looked for impartial and rigorous research evidence about fracking and turned it into an information event. I used the Town Council website and the parish newsletter to tell people about the plans and how they could find out more and have a say. I put a fact file in our library and an information stall in our market.
And in the process I not only talked to a lot of people, but also gained 88 pieces of written feedback about fracking.
3 of them were in favour. Of the other 85, the vast majority viewed fracking as a menace. To the environment generally and to water quality in particular. To our rural economy and the livelihoods that depend on it – people spoke of their fear that the first consent granted would release a genii that could never be put back into its bottle.
But one other theme that came up again and again, was democracy. Or rather a loss of faith in democracy – I would go so far as to say a sense of betrayal. And that is where the irony lies, because – as par.5.37 of the planning report underlines, you have been told to ignore all of the concerns that I have just mentioned. They are not ‘planning matters’ – or else the regulators must be assumed to be effective – and government policy is none of our business.
However, there are some ‘planning matters’ that you are allowed to decide about, and on some of those you may perhaps find yourself with an evenly balanced choice – you could say yes, you could say no.
Members of the committee, when that happens, please remember the deep and valid concerns expressed so clearly by those who depend on you for representation. Your hands may be tied so that you cannot act for us directly in some issues, but in matters where you are able to act for us – please – act for us and use whatever means are left to you to refuse this application.