A RETIRED Bishop has condemned a decision by county councillors this week to approve fracking near the North Yorkshire village of Kirby Misperton, in Ryedale.
The former Bishop of Maidstone, the Rt Revd Graham Cray, retired to the village with his wife, the Revd Jackie Cray, two years ago, and has known the area for 18 years. He said on Tuesday that the approval of hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — “raises major concerns” for the village and further afield.
“We are faced with the industrialisation of one of England’s most beautiful areas. Six companies now have exploration and development rights across North Yorkshire.”
The technique — which involves pumping chemical liquid into rocks deep underground to force the release of shale oil and gas — will curb tourism, risk public health, and ultimately add to climate change, he said.
“Every parish and town council voted against the application, as did the district council. Seven county councillors, none of whom live anywhere near, have ignored the fact that fracking has no social licence in Ryedale.”
Hundreds of protesters gathered outside County Hall in Northallerton during the two-day hearing, and jeered as councillors gave the go-ahead to the UK firm Third Energy. The decision came after the Conservative-led North Yorkshire county council received 4375 objections and just 36 letters in support of the company’s plans.
Third Energy’s chief executive, Rasik Valand, said in a statement that the approval “is not a victory, but is a huge responsibility.
“We will have to deliver on our commitment, made to the committee and to the people of Ryedale, to undertake this operation safely and without impacting on the local environment.”
It is the first time in five years that an application for fracking tests in the UK has been approved. Licences for the technique were suspended in 2011 after tests on the Fylde coast in Lancashire were linked to minor earthquake tremors in the area.
But supporters — including the Government and the independent Task Force on Shale Gas — have said that fracking could generate electricity at half the carbon dioxide emissions of coal, as well as create thousands of jobs.
In the United States, fracking has been used to bolster the energy industry and bring down gas prices, but the process continues to raise environmental concerns, since it requires vast quantities of water to be transported to the site.
“One frack alone will require 900 HGV journeys and 600 other vehicle journeys through our village,” Bishop Cray said. “There is evidence that fossil-fuel production releases far higher levels of methane than the industry admits — a much more serious gas than carbon dioxide. The shale gas needs to stay in the ground.”
There are also concerns that the carcinogenic chemicals used may escape and contaminate water around the site.
Bishop Cray, who has observed fracking in Pennsylvania in the US, said he was appalled by what he saw there. “I came back very concerned about the harm that had been done in these communities: sickness, water and air pollution, noise, traffic, road damage, and inadequate monitoring and safeguards.”