IN response to letters and reports following the Extraordinary RDC meeting. I confess, I am not one of those people that profess to have become an “expert” on fracking over the past few months.

However, I have attended conferences, objection group meetings, listened to the views of professionals from both inside and outside of the oil and gas industry and actively sought advice from associated authorities such as the Environment Agency and Health and Safety Executive since 2010.

My involvement began when a planning application for a sour gas processing plant in Thornton-le-Dale was lodged and I became part of an objection group. For the past five years I have taken every opportunity to inform myself on both conventional and unconventional gas development.

I now sit on both Ryedale District and North Yorkshire County Council planning committees. Members are frequently asked to leave the meeting forfeiting their vote if they have or are even perceived to have “predetermined” an application.

In consenting to a blanket ban, I would certainly have lost my voting rights and indeed have previously lost them for far less. We have to keep our options open right up until the point of decision making. This is not “nodding or winking”, it is looking at hard facts and spending months trying to address valid points of objection which if we don’t do, the planning inspectorate surely will.

The reality of the choices we actually had at the meeting to consider a blanket ban on fracking in Ryedale was either to give away this power or to keep control, enabling us to steer a decision made by the county council or Planning Inspectorate in a limited capacity. To give away any power would certainly have “badly let Ryedale down” as would the rejection of the potential opportunities to safely develop an existing Ryedale gas industry prior to evaluating an application.

Objectors made the spurious assumption that because members voted “against” a blanket ban it therefore followed that they were “for” fracking in Ryedale and that because there was no proof that “fracking is safe” it therefore follows that “fracking is unsafe”. This is not sound reasoning and wouldn’t stand up in a quasi-judicial planning committee meeting.

The Thornton-le-Dale application was eventually determined at a public inquiry and not by the local planning authority and I remember vividly the hours spent watching barristers shred apart evidence given by “expert witnesses”. I do hope our new Ryedale “experts” are prepared for this.

Janet Sanderson, Ryedale District and North Yorkshire County Councillor


• THE letter from David Cragg-James (Gazette & Herald, February 25) seeks further information about the legal advice reported to members of Ryedale District council at the extraordinary Council meeting on February 17, 2015.

I can advise Mr Cragg-James and others that they can read a full copy of my report containing the legal advice given which was considered by the council members.

The report is available on the website of Ryedale District Council on the following link MId=1520&Ver=4

Anyone wishing to read a paper copy of the report may do so at the council offices during council office hours.

Anthony Winship, Ryedale District Council’s solicitor and monitoring officer


• FOLLOWING the February 17 Ryedale District Council meeting on fracking, I’m puzzled by a couple of things.

As reported in last week’s Gazette, council monitoring officer Anthony Winship was quite clear that a blanket ban on fracking would be unlawful. And yet the council has a (presumably lawful) blanket ban on genetically modified crops. Is it simply that going against national Tory party policy is now deemed unlawful?

Government guidance on the Localism Act, brought into force in 2012, states, “The Localism Act makes it clear that it is proper for councillors to play an active part in local discussions, and that they should not be liable to legal challenge as a result. This will help them better represent their constituents and enrich local democratic debate.”

Why then were the largely-silent Conservatives on the council not free to state their opinions on fracking? Given the above points, we can only assume that they want to bring this industry to Ryedale, but don’t want to admit it. For the first time in many years, I’m really looking forward to the coming election.

Steven White, Great Edstone


• WAKE up Ryedale. A council dominated by Conservative councillors is not going to vote against a blanket fracking ban because their party is promoting fracking.

We are at the beginning of a General Election campaign. If there is a Tory government re-elected, fracking will follow; any Tory MP would be whipped into line. The local Tory councillors are trapped into saying little, however many nods and winks they may put out. If re-elected, pressure for applications to frack will go through. The plans are already outlined.

Jill Knight, Hovingham