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Will Yorkshire Become Britain’s Northern Powerhouse?

Ben Webster, The Times

The campaign to start a British fracking industry is to shift across the Pennines, with an application yesterday in North Yorkshire for the first of up to 50 wells.

Third Energy applied to North Yorkshire county council to hydraulically fracture a well at an existing conventional gas extraction site at Kirby Misperton near the Flamingo Land theme park in the Ryedale district.

It hopes that the application will be considered by the council’s planning committee in October and, if approved, fracking could start before Christmas.

A pro-fracking group has been launched by local residents, who believe that Lancashire’s loss, after it rejected Cuadrilla’s application this week, will be Yorkshire’s gain.

The Bowland shale, which lies beneath both North Yorkshire and Lancashire, contains about 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas, according to the British Geological Survey. If only 10 per cent were extracted, it would supply all Britain’s gas needs for 40 years. The decline in North Sea output means that Britain imports 54 per cent of the gas it uses and the government estimates this will rise to 70 per cent by 2025.

Third Energy believes that there are important differences between Lancashire and North Yorkshire. It already has ten gas extraction sites in the county and wells have been operating unobtrusively there for more than 70 years.

Third Energy also believes that it will be able to start fracking much more quickly than companies like Cuadrilla, which are seeking to develop new sites on farmland. This is because companies are required to gather 12 months of data on background levels of methane in groundwater before starting to frack to check if it causes contamination.

Third Energy already has most of the data it needs and hopes the Environment Agency will give it permission to start fracking within weeks of approval by the council. There is stronger local support for fracking in North Yorkshire, where the value placed on the economic benefits of new industries was demonstrated this week with the approval of the world’s biggest potash mine in the North York Moors National Park near Whitby.

Lorraine Allanson, who runs a holiday cottages and bed and breakfast business four miles from Third Energy’s site, has established a campaign group to support fracking in the area. Friends of Ryedale Gas Extraction argues that the risks from fracking have been grossly exaggerated by green groups that have frightened people with unsubstantiated claims about water contamination and a landscape blighted by drilling rigs.

She said that many local people were annoyed that the anti-fracking group Frack Free Ryedale was being run by a couple living in London. She said: “We don’t like it when people come from outside the area and start telling us how to run our lives and what we should be afraid of. They have demonised the gas industry but we should be very grateful for its massive contribution to our lives, not just for heat and electricity but as a feedstock for industry and production of plastics.

“We are very proud of Yorkshire’s long history of producing energy for the nation. We are used to the gas industry in this area and it contributes to our rural economy. I have every faith that the Environment Agency will regulate fracking properly.”

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