A GAS firm planning a controversial fracking operation in Ryedale has confirmed it is removing some equipment from the site as it waits for formal Government approval.

The announcement by Third Energy has been welcomed by campaigners at the Kirby Misperton Protection Camp and Friends of the Earth.

Protestors have demonstrated outside the compound near the village of Kirby Misperton for months.

Last month, business secretary Greg Clark ordered an assessment of the "financial resilience" of Third Energy before deciding whether to give it the green light.

Now the company said it has decided to let contractors remove some of the equipment it has gathered at the site so it can be used elsewhere.

In a statement, the firm said the Government review meant that "there will be a further period before we can expect final consent from the Government to proceed with our operations."

It said it had agree with contractors that some equipment could be removed, including the well control unit and the workover rig.

"This will allow our contractors to deploy their equipment to other projects during the financial review," the statement said.

"We will maintain the majority of the operational equipment onsite and continue all of the monitoring requirements set by the regulators."

The statement said: "We appreciate that this situation creates further uncertainty for residents and we thank them for their patience.

"Given that there will be no hydraulic fracturing operations at the site until final consent is received, we hope that the protesters will also give residents a break from their campaign of disruption and this will enable everyone to resume their normal daily lives and also reduce pressure on North Yorkshire Police."

In response, campaigners at the Kirby Misperton Protection Camp said in a statement: "Campaigners have vowed to peacefully protest at KM8 until Third Energy go bust, and this announcement suggests we haven't got too long to wait.

"The fact that contractors are recalling their equipment while the government investigates Third Energy's finances doesn't bode well for the health of the company. We would suggest it's time for Third Energy to pack up and leave completely."

Friends of the Earth fracking campaigner Rose Dickinson added: "This welcome news is a further blow to the fracking industry, and a major boost for everyone working to prevent fracking in Ryedale.

“Third Energy is now facing an in-depth government investigation into its financial health.

“Whilst fracking has failed to deliver for the last six-and-a-half years, renewable energy has gone from providing a tenth of our electricity to supplying a third of it.

“The government should finally pull the plug on fracking: It makes no sense for our environment, our climate or our energy needs."

Mr Clark said last month that the 13 technical requirements before final consent for fracking can be given had been met.

But he order a financial resilience review "so that stakeholders can have confidence in the company's ability to meet its commitments".

Following Third Energy's announcement, North Yorkshire Police said it will continue to maintain its presence in Kirby Misperton, to ensure 'safe protest and minimal disruption'.

Superintendent Alisdair Dey, of North Yorkshire Police, said:"Throughout this operation we have been balancing the needs and wishes of everyone at Kirby Misperton.

"We will continue to work with people on all sides of the issue, minimising disruption to the local community and ensuring protest activity is peaceful and safe."