THE DISCOVERY of bats at a fracking site could prove a key issue as campaign groups prepare to challenge North Yorkshire County Council’s decision to allow shale gas extraction.

Friends of the Earth claim the county council failed to fully assess the impact of shale gas extraction on wildlife at Kirby Misperton in Ryedale before it granted Third Energy planning permission in May this year.

The environmental charity says a survey documenting hundreds of the protected mammals passing the perimeter of Third Energy’s site at Kirby Misperton contradicts North Yorkshire County Council’s planning report, which stated the area was “known to be devoid of bats”.

Friends of the Earth, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Frack Free Ryedale, argued that the council should not grant planning permission until a proper bat survey had been carried out, but say this was not done.

Third Energy, were, however, required to produce a Wildlife Protection Method Statement as part of the conditions attached to planning permission.

That has now been carried out and the resultant bat surveys have shown that a number of species of bat pass the site perimeter each night – although the level of bat activity was classed as relatively low.

Friends of the Earth’s Yorkshire and Humber campaigner, Simon Bowens, said: “The council and the public were told that the fracking site was devoid of bats.

“This was vital information, now shown to be inaccurate. How could it not have been misleading, now that surveys show hundreds of bat movements every night?

York Press:

“It’s clear that the council adopted the wrong approach - as pointed out by consultants as well as Friends of the Earth and this latest evidence exposes council failures to assess the impact on wildlife.

“Next week in the High Court we will argue that they also failed to consider the climate impacts of fracking, and the need to protect communities financially.”

The judicial review into North Yorkshire County Council’s decision to allow fracking will begin on November 22.