Campaigners to hear High Court ruling in anti-fracking challenge


Campaigners learn today whether they have won a legal challenge against one of the first planning applications to carry out fracking in England.

Residents from the village of Kirby Misperton, Ryedale, North Yorkshire, are fighting to block a decision to allow hydraulic fracturing near their homes.

In a joint application with environmental group Friends of the Earth, they are asking Mrs Justice Lang at the High Court to rule the decision unlawful and quash it.

The lead campaigners, Rev Jackie Cray and David Davis, gathered for a recent hearing of the case with many other demonstrators wearing the white rose of Yorkshire.

Some carried placards demanding: "Protect our health - Say no to fracking."

Fracking company Third Energy was granted permission by North Yorkshire County Council in May to frack a quarter of a mile from Mrs Cray's home.

The Frack Free Ryedale campaigners, who raised thousands of pounds to fund their application for judicial review, accused the local planning authority of failing properly to assess the climate change impact of burning shale gas obtained by fracking.

They and FoE also say the council is failing to secure long-term financial protection in the ''likely'' event that fracking will cause environmental damage.

David Wolfe QC, appearing for the residents and FoE, argued in court last month that the council "misdirected itself in law" by concluding that it could not require Third Energy to provide a financial bond in relation to any long-term "legacy" environmental pollution arising from fracking.

Mrs Cray said: ''This application was opposed by the Ryedale District Council, every Ryedale town council, 15 parish councils, businesses such as Flamingo Land, the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, the Castle Howard Estate, and dozens of other groups and local businesses.

''The county council received 4,375 objections against the application and only 36 letters in favour, yet still approved the plans. We can't call this democracy.''

Friends of the Earth's Yorkshire and Humber campaigner Simon Bowens said: ''North Yorkshire County Council failed in their legal duty to fully assess the impact this fracking application would have on the climate and in protecting their local communities against long-term financial risks.

''We can't afford to allow the fracking industry to just go on putting communities across the world at risk by developing a new, dirty, fossil fuel.''

Frack Free Ryedale and FoE are also both represented by Rowan Smith, a solicitor with law firm Leigh Day.

Mr Smith said: ''We believe North Yorkshire County Council's decision to allow fracking in Ryedale was clearly unlawful, owing to a failure to consider the climate change impact, despite earlier reports saying it was a relevant factor, and an error of law in concluding that a financial bond to protect against long-term damage to the local environment could not be asked for, when in fact it could have been.''

The court was told that gas produced at the site, known as Kirby Misperton A (KMA), would be taken by underground pipeline to nearby Knapton power station.

It is the first planning permission granted in England for fracking on a production scale, as opposed to permissions for exploration, and permits fracking and gas production for nine years.

Mr Wolfe argued that the council had failed to consider the impact of the "indirect, secondary or cumulative" emissions from shale gas burnt at Knapton on climate change.

Sasha White QC, representing the council, said the fundamental problem with Mr Wolfe's submission was that the regulations did not require the Knapton emissions to be assessed in the context of the planning permission under challenge.

Mr White argued that other permissions in the planning system and other regimes controlled the amount of emissions Knapton was allowed to produce "irrespective of what happens at KMA".

He asked: "Why consider something already allowed?"

Mr White also said it could not be argued that no provision was being made for any long-term fracking "legacy".

He said: "That will be a matter for the planning judgment of the defendants in the context of a detailed scheme that has yet to be approved."