HANNAH BRYAN joins members of the public from across Ryedale to listen to the arguments for and against fracking.

CONCERNED residents and councillors attended a packed-out public meeting to debate fracking. The sold-out event at Malton’s Milton rooms last Wedesday saw an overwhelming number of anti-fracking campaigners turn out to show their support against the controversial drilling process, as well as residents who wanted to learn more.

Chaired by Janet Waggott, Ryedale District Council’s chief executive, she said the meeting was to “help us to explore and understand more about fracking”.

Ryedale district councillors attended, as well as Inspector Andy Everitt, of Ryedale police, and members of the North York Moors National Park.

Guest speakers Chris Redston, of Frack Free Ryedale, John Dewar, of Third Energy, Professor Richard Davies, of Newcastle University, and chartered electrical engineer Mike Hill were each given 15 minutes to make their presentations as part of the Unpacking Fracking meeting.

Prof Davies, who leads the Researching Fracking In Europe consortium (ReFine), opened the debate with water contamination and earthquakes.

He said: “There are no proven examples of water contamination. Can fracking cause earthquakes? Yes, it can and it has. It doesn’t really get in to the premier league for generating earthquakes.”

However, Mr Hill said fracking can cause extremely damaging health effects. He said: “If you live within 10 miles of a fracking well there is a 30 per cent chance of birth defects.”

Chris Redston, of Frack Free Ryedale, argued that if fracking was to be granted permission in Ryedale it would not bring jobs and would damage tourism.

He also referred to fracking examples in the US and disasters linked to oil firm Halliburton, who Third Energy has previously said it is in talks with regarding drilling contracts.

Third Energy’s operations director Mr Dewar said that the stories and “scaremongering” from the US needed to be put to one side and invited Mr Redston and other Frack Free Ryedale members to tour Knapton Generating Station to debate matters further – an invitation which has previously been declined. Mr Dewar said: “These are understandable concerns. There is nothing in that well that we can’t fix. The fractures that we create are just that, fractures, fractures the thickness of your finger.”

After the presentations, the speakers were invited to respond to submitted questions.

Concerns were raised regarding the impact fracking would have on tourism in Ryedale and Rob Laycock, from Lastingham, asked what benefits fracking would bring.

He said that a recent Kirby Misperton meeting had been “a very angry meeting” and that “a lot of people have been traumatised by what has happened already”.

Mr Dewar said he had visited a resident who said she had been “traumatised” and had lost a lot of sleep because of the noise.

He said: “That did come as a surprise to me and I was hurt. I promised her that it won’t happen again. £100,000 goes to the local community.”

However, Mr Redston said that Ryedale would not receive any benefits from fracking. He said: “Why should we be guinea pigs? If fracking takes off in Ryedale, the trickle-down effect on the tourism industry will mean a lot of people steer clear. It can only bring problems.”

Mr Hill added: “You can kiss goodbye (to tourism) when the frackers move in.”

Geoff Smith, of Hovingham, asked how the waste water would be disposed of and Mr Dewar assured people that no more than about 15 trucks would be used, which would keep noise and traffic levels to a minimum. He said: “We used 120 trucks to drill the initial wellhead. For fracking, it is less and it is less equipment. Once the equipment is on the rig then no more is needed.”

He said underground pipes would be used to move the water thus reducing traffic levels further and that the water would be cleaned and recycled for the next frack. The last test frack is the only time where the water would not be recycled but disposed of.

One topic which caused concern was the monitoring of decommissioned wells.

The Environmental Audit Committee wants additions made to the Infrastructure bill requiring fracking companies to monitor wells once decommissioned. The committee stated: “It is unacceptable that there are no monitoring requirements for decommissioned or abandoned wells.”

Richard Davies said: “Cement can crack and steel can corrode, so it is important that they are monitored and checked. These wells need to be checked now and checked for our children and for our children’s children.”

Mr Hill said he was concerned about methane leaks and the lack of monitoring.

Mr Dewar said that more could be done in terms of monitoring decommissioned wells. He said: “As long as Third Energy is in business, it is our responsibility. It is an area we can improve.”

Mr Dewar was also pressed for an answer regarding whether if, following extensive public consultation, Third Energy would still submit the application to carry out a test frack at their KM8 well in Kirby Misperton if the public was against it. He said: “It’s something we would take onboard, but let’s have public consultation first. It’s a planning application, so we would still submit it.”

Ryedale District Council will host another meeting on Tuesday, February 17 at 6.30pm in the Milton Rooms.

Third Energy will continue to hold public meetings with the aim of submitting a planning application by mid-March. The next meeting is on Friday, in Pickering Memorial Hall, from 2pm to 7pm. A full list of the meetings is available at third-energy.com


Positive reaction to talks

INSPECTOR Andy Everitt, of Ryedale police, said he is impressed by the level of debate and constructive way all those involved in the fracking issue are conducting themselves.

Police are drawing up plans to cover possible protests over Third Energy’s controversial plan to frack shale gas near the North York Moors.

Insp Everitt said a team of officers was developing an action plan, following the announcement by the firm that it intended to apply for planning permission to hydraulically fracture one of its well sites in Kirby Misperton.

Insp Everitt, who attended last Wednesday’s meeting at the Milton Rooms in Malton, said: “As part of Operation Kingfisher, we are able to support the community as the fracking debate continues and are fully employed at a local level to act accordingly to all developments. I am impressed by the levels of the debate and the openness and engagement from all organisations.”

Speaking after the public meeting, Di Keal, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate for Thirsk and Malton, said: “Strength of feeling over the threat of fracking in Ryedale was vividly demonstrated by the number of people packed into the Milton Rooms.

“Heading both side of the argument left me and many others in the audience in no doubt about the risks posed by the fracking and the high level of concern over the potential scale of the development and number of well sites in our area.”

Third Energy’s John Dewar, operations director, said: “First, I would like to thank Ryedale District Council for organising the meeting. While the meeting may not have reached its goal of impartiality on the subject of hydraulic fracturing, it was an opportunity open for discussion.

“I hope the evening went some way to explaining how hydraulic fracturing technology can be used safely and successfully in Yorkshire.”

Janet Waggott, chief executive of Ryedale District Council, said: “The meeting was a great success and I am very pleased the district council agreed to facilitate a meeting knowing that there are different views.

“It was very well attended and we worked hard to ensure it encouraged people to come and share their views and have an opportunity to ask questions of an expert panel.”