"Fracking and Helmsley" Information Event
6th and 7th November 2015
All the evidence papers used in the display, along with a summary of their recommendations and all the 6 PEDL maps, are now in the library in a box file called "Fracking and Helmsley".
Report and Feedback by Councillor Rose
Correspondence - Shale Gas Applications or "fracking"
Following Helmsley Town Council's August meeting the following email was sent to Kevin Hollinrake, MP for Thirsk and Malton, and Amber Rudd, MP and Minister, and others, on the 25th August.
Helmsley Town Council, in Ryedale, North Yorkshire, is very concerned about reports of the recent ministerial decision to operate the call-in procedure for shale gas applications which take over 16 weeks to determine.
Helmsley, a small 12th century Market Town on the edge of the North York Moors, is in 6 of 8 local buffer zones for shale gas licences.
It is impossible to say how long it takes to determine a complex application for any type of mineral exploration including shale gas. The North York Moors National Park recently granted permission for a potash mine in the National Park which took almost 3 years to determine. The resources used by the National Park in considering this application were huge but it was possible to acquire expert advice on this proposal because potash mining is a proven industry with expert advice available to all. Shale gas exploration, an entirely new industry in England, has no history and therefore no pool of knowledge to call upon to determine the probable complex issues that will accompany any such application
North Yorkshire County Council and the North York Moors National Park Authority, both Mineral Authorities, will be unable to process a large numbers of applications at the same time and with a threat of ministerial invention will find themselves under huge pressure when making crucial, demanding and safe decisions on any application for shale gas.
Helmsley Town Council therefore considers the ministerial decision to ‘threaten’ to call in non speedy decisions for shale gas licences is unhelpful, does not allow for due process in planning system, and reduces local democracy to hitherto low levels in England.
Please find attached a letter received by the council at its meeting on the 24th August which expresses the concerns of some residents.
Amber Rudd MP 25th August 2015
Thank you very much for your email. If you have contacted me on a personal issue, I will write to you as soon as possible.
As for campaign emails, these are very useful in letting me know how local people feel on a particular issue. However, as I receive such a large volume of these, replying individually takes up a huge amount of time and limits my ability to help those with pressing individual matters.
So if you have emailed me on a particular campaign, please find my response to campaign emails on my website athttp://amberrudd.co.uk/responses-to-campaigns/
Amber Rudd MP
Kevin Hollinrake MP for Thirsk and Malton 27th August 2015
Dear Victoria, thank you for your email. Please feel free to share this email with members of the Town Council.
As you may be aware, most planning applications are dealt with in the first instance by the local authority. Should any application be refused, the applicant has the right to appeal to an independent planning inspector who will ensure that the decision by the local authority was consistent with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The recent changes to the planning process for shale gasexploration applications followed protracted delays for applications in Lancashire that took over a year to determine. Following the changes, local authorities will still be responsible for shale gas applications, which they can approve or refuse, but if no decision is made with 16 weeks, the Secretary of State will have the right to step in.
This government believes that shale gas exploration can provide the UK with greater energy security, help keep prices down and support efforts to tackle climate change as emissions from natural gas are around 50% lower than from coal. Shale gas exploration was a clear manifesto commitment of the current government prior to the election and therefore forms part of the NPPF. Planning is rarely just a local matter, many projects, such as motorways, tunnels, railways and airports, have a national interest so we must make sure that the NPPF is being properly and fairly applied.
However, as you may know, I do have serious concerns about shale gas exploration (also known as fracking), whether it can be carried out safely and that there is no significant impact on the lives and livelihoods of people in this area. You will be aware that a fracking application has been submitted by Third Energy for their site at Kirby Misperton. Any proposal to hydraulically fracture for shale gas must be shown to be safe and discreet and should North Yorkshire County Council or the Minister approve the application, I will work to make sure that this is the case in North Yorkshire. Whoever makes the decision will need to ensure that matters such as traffic and the impact of the activity on the local economy and communities are properly considered and moderated.
We need to make sure that the regulations are strong, and are monitored independently. At recent meetings, it was agreed that Third Energy would allow the Environment Agency to supervise an independent contractor responsible for the monitoring of air and water quality throughout the whole process. This is a significant addition to the current regulations for shale gas exploration. I feel it is very important that the process is safe and is seen to be safe.
Companies must get planning permission and environmental permits, pass scrutiny by the Health and Safety Executive, get the Energy Department’s consent, have an Environmental Impact Assessment, and 12 months of monitoring before they can drill. They are also required to use the best available technologies to monitor and minimise the emissions from producing shale gas. On top of that the government has committed to an outright ban on fracking in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Like you, many local residents also have worries about the potential industrialisation of the countryside and the impact on the economy, tourism, farming and their quiet enjoyment of this beautiful area. Third Energy today made a commitment that any new drilling sites will be a number of miles apart and that each site needs to be no more than a few hectares in size. I would absolutely hold them to account for these commitments.
In September I also plan to visit the fracking areas of Pennsylvania to see for myself what impact the industry has had on local communities and will make sure that my findings are made known to the general public and the government.