A GROUP set up in support of fracking has said claims that Ryedale has been designated a “sacrifice zone” by the Government is misleading.

Last week the Oil and Gas Authority announced 27 more locations in England where licences to frack for shale oil and gas will be offered, along with a second group of 132 further blocks which could be granted following a consultation.

The news was described as a black day for the region by anti-fracking campaigners who said the North of England was now officially designated as a “sacrifice zone” in the Government’s drive towards fracking.

However, Lorraine Allanson, from Friends of Ryedale Gas Exploration (FORGE), said gas production had been happening in North Yorkshire safely for decades, providing much needed employment and energy for the local area.

“These blocks that have been offered by the Government as Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDLs) simply give a company the exclusive rights to apply to explore in that area. They are not licences to frack,” she said.

“These licences could also be used purely for conventional gas exploration, a process which has been happening in the UK for well over a century.

“For Frack Free Ryedale to claim that Yorkshire has been designated as a ‘sacrifice zone’ by the Government is misleading, unsupported scaremongering.”

But Chris Redston, of Frack Free Ryedale, said the new awards would cover nearly every town and village in Ryedale with numerous other licences proposed across the whole of Yorkshire.

“The government has clearly designated Yorkshire - and Ryedale in particular - a ‘sacrifice zone’ for fracking companies in their misguided and unpopular dash for gas. There is hardly a house, business or farm in Ryedale that isn’t in a licence block or the ominously named “zone of impact”.

“If fracking is allowed to go ahead in these areas, the effect this could have on the area’s booming tourist industry, high quality agriculture and peaceful day-to-day life would be devastating.”

l Members of the public will have up to eight weeks to voice their opinions on a fracking application for the area.

The public consultation process for an application to carry out test fracks near Kirby Misperton by Third Energy has now opened and is being processed by North Yorkshire County Council.

The public consultation will end on October 14 and the 16 week determination period in which the council is expected to make a decision on the application will expire on November 18. Application is online at onlineplanningregister.northyorks.gov.uk