A NEW group has been set up to campaign against fracking in Ryedale.

The Frack Free Business Group includes over 180 companies from pubs and hotels to shops and catering companies.

Paul O'Hanlon, the manager of the Black Swan Hotel in Helmsley and a founder member of the Frack Free Business Group, said: "We rely on tourism for our business, which in turn supports the local economy.

"We also cater for seasonal shooting parties and are concerned what effect fracking would have on our countryside, and wonder whether people would still want to visit Ryedale."

Anne Barnes, who runs a bakery also in Helmsley, said: "As a business owner in Helmsley and a farmer, I am extremely concerned the impact fracking will have on my livelihood. I also worry what the future holds for my grandchildren from the effects of fracking on the environment."

The Frack Free Business Group is also planning to promote Frack Free Businesses within the community.

Businessman Darren Allanson, who co-owns the Patisserie in Malton and helped to set up the Frack Free Business Group, said, "Once I started looking into fracking, it became apparent to me that Ryedale simply could not accommodate such an industry, given how many businesses rely on the tourism sector. Even if we just look at the huge increase traffic if Ryedale became the centre of the UK fracking industry, how would that affect our road network?"

He added: "We would encourage all businesses in Ryedale to join our group so that we can work together to preserve our key industries of tourism and agriculture for future generations."

However, Lorraine Allanson, from Friends of Ryedale Gas Exploration (FORGE), which in support of fracking said: "It is premature for businesses to take a negative stance to the gas exploration industry before knowing the real facts about fracking in the UK and Third Energy’s future plans.

"A wide range of businesses will stand to benefit from the many diverse jobs being created. We welcome responsible business investment in Ryedale. Personally, as a tourist business operator I find it unlikely that their proposed operations will affect the tourist industry in any way. Sellafield has a much larger permanent footprint, has it ruined tourism in Cumbria?"

Ms Allanson added: "It sets a dangerous precedent to ignore advice and findings from respected UK health, scientific and engineering organisations that have found that fracking can be managed safely. Gas exploration can actually help drive a flourishing local economy helping local businesses and our community to grow and prosper."