MALTON’s anti-fracking mayor Paul Andrews raised more than £7,000 in less than three weeks to hire a barrister to present a case at the public examination of a key piece of county council planning policy.

Cllr Andrews, who also sits on the district council, said he was officially authorised to represent Ryedale District Council, Malton Town Council and Habton Parish Council at the hearing into North Yorkshire’s Joint Minerals and Waste Plan, which took place on January 24 and 25.

Amid tight security in a packed council chamber at County Hall, he said there were two key issues being discussed - the legal interpretation of the term ‘fracking’, and the idea of a 500m residential buffer around frack sites.

In its first iteration, the county’s proposed plan had set out a 500m buffer zone between fracking sites and homes and other sensitive buildings, such as hospitals and schools. But a Government statement had later stipulated that planners should not set thresholds, or have areas within their minerals extraction plans that unjustifiably restrict shale gas development.

At the meeting, industry representatives rejected the principle of buffer zones. They showed an interactive map of what the impact of the 500m buffer zone would be and said the effect of the buffer policy would be to “sterilise” 80 per cent of their gas exploration licence area.

But Jack Parker, the legal counsel of Cornerstones Chambers, London, hired by Cllr Andrews, said: “There is clear evidence to show that adverse impacts from fracking, particularly but not exclusively from noise, are particularly severe and difficult to mitigate when people live closer than 500m to a well.”

Cllr Andrews said: “The Frack-Free team who organised the fundraising were brilliant. I would like to publicly thank them and everybody who contributed to funding Jack’s engagement and made this possible. The inspector’s decision may not be available for some time.”

The mineral and waste plan will guide policy on planning applications for fracking operations in North Yorkshire for the next 15 years. It is expected it will be adopted by the summer.