Fracking. Why I voted NO on 23 May

by billhoult on 6 June, 2016


On the 23 May 2016 a decision was made by the County Council Planning Department to approve an application by Third Energy to carry out vertical Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking) to an existing well near Kirby Misperton to extract gas.

The hearing over two days featured representations by over a hundred people and the decision was carried by seven of the Committee voting for and four against. I was one of those who voted against.

There were a number of reasons for voting against but my fundamental objection was that it was my view that the County Council’s policies had not been followed.

The policies that apply are the “saved” policies of the old 1997 Minerals Plan (which was approved when fracking was quite unknown for on land hydrocarbon extraction). Specifically saved policy 7/6 requires that gas wells should not be looked at in isolation but as part of a “gas field” and that the cumulative effects should be taken into account. The emerging Draft Mineral and Waste Plan para 5.113  is much more explicit on the issue in regard to fracking and the need to consider the cumulative impact of the operation and this should in my view have been weighed in the balance.

The Planning officer was wrong in my view to conclude that the “Fracking operation” was just an extension of an existing production well and could be dealt with under saved policy 7.5.

Fracking is a new process and the extent and identification of the “Field” is in my view quite different from that of mere extraction from a well. One of the experts from the Company did explain that the identification of the “Field” in regard to fracking was still a matter of debate in the industry. If that is so it was in my view a good reason to refuse (lack of information).

The cumulative effect of the success of the well could be devastating. A feature of fracking is that you need to have more wells to ensure that all the gas can be extracted (vertical fracking we were told only extends to about 400metres and drilled lateral wells about 1-2 kilometres). It follows that to extract more gas then more wells could be just a mile apart with the prospect of hundreds of well across this part of the County.

The infrastructure needed such as the transportation of drilling rigs and other equipment etc. along Yorkshire’s narrow roads, the noise of the drilling and fracking operations to service large numbers of wells would in my view do irreparable damage to the Tourist and Farming economies in addition to damaging the environment. Add to this the likelihood that each well, during its lifetime would need to be refracked at least once, thereby doubling up on the disturbance caused in the area.

Whether my fears were correct or not is not the point, at no stage was there an estimate or educated projection given of what the industry thought would be the cumulative outcome of a successful fracking of this individual Well. The lack of this information and the risk of the devastating effect on the local economy and environment was the main reason for my vote against the application.

It will be difficult in my view to resist further applications and I understand another licenced operator is already carrying out investigations within their licenced areas under permitted Development rules.

Cllr Bill Hoult

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