'˜No stone unturned': Fracking boss invokes Churchill as Yorkshire debate nears climax

Councillors debate the controversial plan.Councillors debate the controversial plan.
Councillors debate the controversial plan.
THIRD energy insisted it has left 'no stone unturned' in preparing its plans to frack in North Yorkshire as the firm tried to persuade county councillors to give the green light today.

John Dewar, the company’s operations director, rejected the safety, health and environmental concerns raised by campaigners at the county council planning hearing in Northallerton.

Third Energy is seeking planning permission to use the controversial mining method at a site near Kirby Misperton in Ryedale.

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The county council’s own planning officer has recommended the 11-strong committee give the go-ahead.

Mr Dewar told the committee: “We have left no stone unturned in the preparation of this application. Neither has the planning officer, who along with her backroom team, have done a detailed a professional evaluation of the application.

“Since the start of this journey I have always stated that the truth will out. Let me finish with a quote from Sir Winston Churchill, ‘The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is’.

“I urge the committee to do the right thing for Ryedale, North Yorkshire and the UK by supporting the planning officer’s recommendation.”

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Mr Dewar told the committee Third Energy’s motto was “if something cannot be done safely it doesn’t get done at all”.

He rejected an accusation made by one of the application’s opponents on Friday that the company had mishandled a previous leak from its existing conventional operation in the area.

Mr Dewar said the company had been mining gas through conventional methods in the area for 20 years without any damage to the area and claimed most of the objections came from “misunderstandings”.

As an example, he described as “ludicrous” and “ridiculous” the claim that depleted uranium would be used in the process adding: “It shows again that a little bit of knowledge, coupled with a lack of technical qualifications and experience is a potent mix for creating misunderstanding or even a scare story.”

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Mr Dewar also claimed that there was more local support for Third Energy’s application than suggested by the protests that have been taking place outside County Hall during the hearing.

“Many open-minded people I have spoken to in Ryedale have said they are supportive of the local gas industry but are scared to say it in public, you can see why,” he said.

The meeting in Northallerton is being closely watched nationally because of the controversy surrounding fracking and the energy industry’s difficulty securing planning permission to use the method.

Earlier, a local businessman has warned North Yorkshire could suffer a brain drain if a plan to frack is given the go-ahead today.

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Kyle Boote, who runs the Helmsley Brewing Company, told county councillors the green light for the plan would see people like him reconsider their futures in the area.

Mr Boot told the committee: “As the father of a three-year-old, I have major well-researched concerns about fracking and would probably reconsider our future here should fracking go-ahead.

“I’m sure that I won’t be alone and suspect that it would be the most educated, the most employable, and most enterprising people who will leave which will be disastrous for the local economy and for the community.”

Mr Boot expressed concern about Ryedale being known as a “fracking capital of the UK” and the possible impact on tourism and other local industries.

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He added: “Our beers have been branded to convey the unique character of our area and will not seem so appealing should our region become synonymous with fracking.

“In business as in all things, perception is often reality. But what if the worst happens? People will definitely not want to visit or buy from producers in areas where there have been environmental problems.

“The short and long term impact on local tourism and farming will be profounding negative with both new and long-established businesses ruined.”

On Friday, more than 70 people spoke against the proposal and more followed this morning.

Planning officer Vicky Perkin is expected to take two hours to advise the committee this afternoon before members begin their deliberations.

A decision is expected to be reached at around 7.30pm.