Wakefield Council says no to fracking - unanimous vote to oppose the government

Fracking rigs like this one are a common site in America.
Fracking rigs like this one are a common site in America.

Councillors are fighting for fracking licences to be withdrawn, over “serious” environmental and health concerns.

They will call on the government to remove exploratory licences granted to oil and gas companies last year, which enable them to drill for shale gas across four areas of the district.

Wakefield Council leader Coun Peter Box said fears about water contamination, explosions, noise, light and air pollution and earth tremors had all been reported in areas where fracking already takes place.

He told a meeting of the full council on Wednesday: “I make my views quite clear. I am opposed to fracking at the moment.

“And unless somebody can convince me that all those issues I have raised are not applicable then I shall continue to oppose it.”

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”.

Coun David Dagger said: “Are we prepared to pay the price of hydraulic fracking in the district? No fracking way.”

Councillors also called for safeguards restricting fracking at green spaces, national parks and heritage sites including Sandal and Pontefract castles.

And they said they would fight to give local people a say on all fracking planning applications. The council will call on the government to scrap a “fast track” policy allowing the secretary of state to make local planning decisions about fracking.

Coun Faith Heptinstall said: “Crucial to this whole issue is the government’s plan to remove local councils’, this council’s, right to stop fracking happening in our communities in the granting of exploratory licences.

“Ultimately it is taking away our local residents’ opportunity to feed into this process and have a say over what decisions will ultimately affect them.”

Fracking involves injecting water at high pressure to fracture shale rock under ground, allowing gas and oil to flow freely to the surface and be extracted to use as fuel.

Last year, IGas was granted a licence to frack around Walton, Newmillerdam, Criggleston, Sandal, Crofton and Hemsworth. And Hutton was given permission to frack in Normanton, Stanley, Outwood, Castleford, Pontefract and Knottingley.

Gareth Turner is the managing director at the Normanton branch off the Well Services Group, a partner company to the oil and gas firms, whose workers would carry out the process.

He said: “There are huge economic and employment benefits to fracking when done safely.

“And not just economic benefits in terms of using our own gas and not importing it, but for a person right here right now it presents the opportunity for employment, for bringing new people into the oil and gas industry.”

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