GP Taylor comment: Fracking farce. North Yorkshire lions betrayed by council donkeys

Protesters outside County Hall in Northallerton
Protesters outside County Hall in Northallerton
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Well, I always said fracking in Yorkshire was a done deal from the start. Despite the protests, the Tory-dominated North Yorkshire County Council has passed the planning application to frack in Ryedale.

How dare an elected body go against the wishes of the vast majority of people that they supposedly say they represent and allow Third Energy to prospect for shale gas?

Unable to attend the two-day meeting in Northallerton, I watched via the NYCC live stream. Speaker after speaker expressed their concerns.

They were experts and ordinary members of the public who had come together as a united front to put forward a rational case why fracking should not be allowed in Yorkshire.

People came from Australia and America to speak of what had happened in their countries when fracking was allowed. They told horrifying stories of previously beautiful areas of the country being devastated. Once healthy rivers now bubbled with methane gas and water supplies were poisoned with toxic chemicals.

Yet, in true Tory fashion, in the pay of their masters, the planning committee went against the wishes of the public on Monday night. How dare they do such a thing? How can they sleep at night knowing that they – and only they – are responsible for the possible devastation of this beautiful county?

Is it really possible for elected representatives not to take into account the feelings of their electors when making such important decisions?

Obviously they put party loyalty and the cause of big business well before the wishes of the people, and the only way to show disapproval will be at the ballot box.

Their decision will not only lead to thousands of trucks blocking sleepy country roads but also to a hefty dose of protest and civil disobedience as ordinary women and men turn into “fracktivists”.

The Police Federation has warned that the passing of the planning application will lead to many demonstrations, testing an already overstretched police force.

Having listened to the evidence presented at the meeting, it was obvious that the NYCC planning departments investigation into fracking was flawed.

For some years I worked in the area of the proposed site as a police officer and then as a priest. I know the people well. They are moderate, community-minded and not out to make a fuss. In no way are they the domestic extremists that some would tell you they are.

I also know what difficulties they have when trying to get planning permission from NYCC to build an extension on their houses or expand a business.

How is it then that a company from outside the area can come in and get what it wants?

One of the things that struck me was the fact that planners didn’t seem to think that there were any protected species of animals on or near the site. They even said it was devoid of bats, when there was clear evidence of bat habitat.

I was led to believe they hadn’t even done a bat survey of the site. I can tell them for nothing that I have seen bats in the area of the site on my many nights on police patrol. Why do an environmental survey in winter when most of the protected species are hibernating?

The planners appeared not to know about the ponds in the area that are the possible habitat of the Greater Crested Newt. Please don’t laugh, this slithering little reptile can bring to a halt the biggest building project. In this case it seemed that the concerns for these creatures had been swept aside.

Thankfully, Frack Free Ryedale pointed out the errors of the report, and even this didn’t change the mind of the planning committee.

Had that been your planning application to build a house near a pond with protected newts, it would now be in the bin.

Not so for Third Energy. They have a mysterious power to be able to influence people despite the evidence piled against them. Yorkshire is now in the hands of the gods. It is possible that in a few years time there will be reports in The Yorkshire Post about the damage that fracking has caused to the area financially and environmentally.

I would suggest that all those people who can no longer get house insurance, or are affected by poisoned aquifers, start getting their legal case together and drop it on the door step of County Hall. The people of North Yorkshire are lions led by donkeys. It is time for those donkeys to be put out to grass at the next election.

GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster and can be followed @GPTaylorauthor.