Judge blocks challenge against Yorkshire fracking approval

Campaigners from the North Yorkshire village of Kirby Misperton have failed in a High Court attempt to quash planning permission for what would be the first fracking project to take place in the UK for five years.

London's Royal Courts of Justice
London's Royal Courts of Justice

Mrs Justice Lang today rejected the challenge to plans for hydraulic fracturing - or fracking - in Ryedale, which is opposed by campaign group Frack Free Ryedale, with the backing of campaign group Friends of the Earth.

The judge ruled that North Yorkshire County Council's decision to give the go-ahead for Third Energy UK Gas Ltd's scheme, taken in May, should be allowed to stand.

According to the judge’s ruling, the campaigners claimed that the council had "failed to take into account (as part of its consideration of the environmental impacts of the proposed development) an assessment of the material indirect/secondary/cumulative climate change impacts arising from the burning of the gas" at the Knapton gas fired power plant during the production phase of the development".

For its part, the council argued it "was entitled not to consider the effects of emissions generated by burning the produced gas outside the site for which planning permission was sought".

The judge’s ruling said that the application for planning permission for fracking operations did not include any development at Knapton.

"Knapton already had planning permission and it was already authorised by the Environment Agency to burn gas from existing well sites [and] no increase in capacity at Knapton was sought as part of this proposal".

The judge ruled that the council's committee members had the benefit of specialist knowledge as members of a mineral planning authority with multiple gas wells in their region.

She said: "The real thrust of the objections was that energy requirements ought to be met by other, less environmentally damaging means than gas production and a gas-fuelled electricity generating station.

"This was essentially a judgment for the committee to make. They were extensively briefed by officers on the climate change issue, as well as the government's policy in favour of shale gas."

Donna Hume, Friends of the Earth campaigner, said: "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."

R on the Application of Friends of the Earth Limited & Ors v North Yorkshire County Council. Case Number: CO/3470/2016

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