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High Court backs North Yorkshire CC over fracking decision

Fracking will be allowed to take place in North Yorkshire after the High Court ruled that the county council acted lawfully when it approved a fracking application earlier this year.

North Yorkshire County Council had approved energy company Third Energy’s controversial application to frack an existing well in the village of Kirby Misperton for shale gas back in May, despite receiving 4,375 objections to the plans and only 36 representations of support.

Friends of the Earth and residents’ group Frack Free Ryedale launched legal action against the council after its decision, unsuccessfully arguing that the council had failed to properly consider the environmental impact of its decision.

A statement from the council said: “North Yorkshire County Council is grateful for the judgement of the High Court, which confirms that the planning committee gave proper regard to all material planning considerations before approving the application by Third Energy to undertake fracking for shale gas in the vicinity of Kirby Misperton.

“The county council has not sought to bring fracking to North Yorkshire. Having received this application, we had a responsibility to determine it and to apply national and local policies. We followed a statutory process, and the High Court has found that we followed it correctly and has rejected the issues raised by Friends of the Earth.”

Claimant in the case Jackie Cray, a retired vicar from Kirby Misperton, said that she was “obviously disappointed” in the verdict but vowed to continue campaigning against fracking in the area, saying: “There is no support in North Yorkshire for this risky industry.”

While the anti-fracking campaigners were forced to pay £10,000 in costs, they made clear they would not appeal against the decision.

Donna Hume, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said of the decision: “The judge found that North Yorkshire councillors had assessed the impacts of climate change.

“But we know that climate change was barely mentioned at that crucial council meeting where the decision to allow fracking was taken, and more damningly, that councillors didn’t have the information about the total carbon emissions produced from the fracking project.”

Rasik Valand, chief executive of Third Energy, stated that he was confident it would prove that the council was right to grant permission to begin fracking.

“The permission places a great obligation on Third Energy to prove that we can carry out the test fracks in the same safe, discreet and environmentally sensitive way that we have conducted our gas exploration and energy generation activities over the past two decades,” Valand said.

Given the delays caused by the judicial review, Third Energy is not expected to begin fracking the site until at least next year.

Last month Nottingham County Council permitted an energy company to begin exploring for shale gas near the village of Misson, marking the third UK site this year to be approved for exploration. 

Despite this, full fracking – hydraulic fracturing – has now been approved at only two sites in the UK: Kirby Misperton and Preston New Road in Lancashire.  But the government will soon decide on the fate of a third site, Roseacre Wood in Lancashire, where the company involved must address traffic concerns.

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