Frack fears reignited in the district after drilling approval

Anti Fracking protestors.
Anti Fracking protestors.

The controversial decision to allow fracking in North Yorkshire has sparked fears that applications for drilling shale gas could now be lodged across the district.

For the first time in the country since 2011, councillors on Monday gave the go-ahead for companies to frack near the village of Kirby Misperton.

The decision comes just months after licences were granted to two companies to explore for shale at sites across the Wakefield district.

Members of campaign group Frack Free Wakefield, which opposes the controversial drilling technique, travelled to Northallerton on Friday to join in demonstrations ahead of the latest decision.

Jon Sibbald, group coordinator, said: “We are very disappointed with the decision in North Yorkshire.

“The worry is now that if it has been passed there, then they have got an example to by to do it elsewhere. We don’t want fracking in Wakefield, or anywhere else and we need the council to stay strong.”

I do believe that local people should decide and have their say in the debate, not central government.

Jon Trickett, MP for Hemsworth

Fracking is the process of drilling into the earth to extract oil and gas by injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into rocks at high pressure.

Last year, IGas was granted a licence to frack around Walton, Newmillerdam, Crigglestone, Sandal, Crofton and Hemsworth.

And Hutton Energy was given permission to frack in Normanton, Stanley, Outwood, Castleford, Pontefract and Knottingley.

In February, Wakefield councillors unanimously agreed that all licences to frack in the district should be removed until “serious concerns about the environment and health have been comprehensively addressed”.

MP Jon Trickett.

MP Jon Trickett.

Jon Trickett, MP for Hemsworth, said: “I have always been sceptical of fracking and I am very worried about the impact it would have, especially in a former mining area such as ours.

“Constituents have already contacted me about the potential impact on the environment and on watercourses in our area.

“I do believe that local people should decide and have their say in the debate, not central government.”

The companies would need to seek planning permission before exploratory fracking went ahead.

Frack Free Wakefield organised a public meeting on Wednesday, which included a documentary screening about the effects of fracking.

Councillor Denise Jeffery, deputy leader of Wakefield Council, said one of the key issues people are concerned about is the potential impacts of fracking.

She said: “The decision made in North Yorkshire earlier this week shows that feelings about fracking run very high and I fully understand people’s concerns. “One the key issues that fuels people’s worries is the unknown impact on our environment and health. Earlier this year at a meeting of the full council we agreed to call on the government to withdraw all fracking exploratory licences until these environmental and health concerns have been comprehensively explored.

“It was also agreed that any proposals to introduce fracking to the Wakefield district should only be done with local public support and once all safety concerns have been fully addressed.”

Speaking after the licences were awarded, Hutton Energy managing director David Messina said: “We do not expect any wells to be drilled before year three of our work programs, at which point we will work closely with local communities during the planning application stages. We are committed to ensuring that residents are fully informed of our operations and understand the process of oil and gas exploration.”