Frenzy of protests expected as North Yorkshire votes on fracking's future

An example of drilling for shale gas.
An example of drilling for shale gas.

Dame Vivienne Westwood is expected to join angry protests tomorrow, Friday as North Yorkshire County Council prepares to make a landmark decision on fracking.

The county council’s planning committee’s decision is focused on Third Energy’s proposals to use the controversial method of mining at a site near the picturesque village of Kirby Misperton.

Although this small community lies far from the Harrogate district towards the top end of North Yorkshire, the decision may set a precedent for much of the county, if not the entire country.

Work on the site, believed to hold the second-largest gas shale reserves in England, moved a step closer recently with a report by North Yorkshire county council recommending permission be granted to the UK firm for testing on deposits first identified in the area by Third Energy in 2013.

But the recommendations have alarmed anti-fracking protestors, among whom are members of the Frack Free Harrogate District group and the local Green Party who fear the environmental consequences of any drilling for shale gas.

They say a ‘yes’ decision could eventually impact closer to home because official studies published by the Government studies show that at least part of the Harrogate district sits on Bowland Shale.

And they point to the fact that NYCC’s own lengthy consultation period which has been going on since last August received 4,000 replies from the public, the bulk of them against fracking.

One of the most passionatre anti-fracking campaigners locally, Knaresborough resident Mrs Jane Gibbs, said she would be travelling to county hall in Northallerton to make her voice heard.

She said : “We will be attending this peaceful protest against fracking do so to protect our County from the industrialisation of our countryside and the potential contamination of our water, air and land that fracking will inevitably bring if this application is approved.”

Such is the scale of the disruption forecast from crowds expected to gather from all over the country outside County Hall in Northallerton tomorrow, the decision may not be made finally until next Monday.

It’s not yet known whether fashion guru Dame Vivienne Westwood will be arriving in a tank for tomorrow’s protests, as she did at an anti-fracking demo last September outside David Cameron’s house in the village of Chadlington in Oxfordshire.

Whatever way North Yorkshire County Council decides to swing, the police are warning of the threat of a summer of protests in the county over the issue.

And North Yorkshire’s Police Federation has said fracking demonstrations could pose a “significant challenge” to over-stretched police resources in parts of the region.