A GOVERNMENT inspector has accepted arguments about protecting certain areas and imposing buffer zones between homes and fracking sites in North Yorkshire and York.

The inspector, Elizabeth Ord, has been considering a joint plan drawn up by North Yorkshire and York councils and North Yorks Moors National Park Authority. On Friday she said she was satisfied with the plans and policies about areas of beauty, parks, and the setting of the historic city of York.

She also indicated that she is happy with with moves to protect certain areas from fracking to protect the heritage of York, and is provisionally satisfied with a 500m buffer zone between fracking sites and homes - although she is still to consider arguments from oil and gas firms which object to these.

The moves have been welcomed by York councillors, with environment chief Cllr Andrew Waller saying although final decisions have not been made, they are encouraged by the inspector's comments. York planning boss Cllr Peter Dew added: “This is a very positive development for York and the wider region. We’ve been working very effectively with our neighbouring authorities to create a joint plan which is right for our region.

“This plan gives the whole region a clear policy framework for shale gas drilling, making sure that both residents and industry understand the importance of protecting residential areas and the city’s environment. The examination has been constructive so far. Any modifications to the policy as a result of the examination will go back through a consultation process before final approval and adoption by each of the planning authorities.”

The joint authorities had been asked to provide extra evidence on the 500m buffer zone, protection for parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty, scheduled monuments, registered battlefields, listed historic parks and gardens, and the historic setting of York.

If they are implemented, the policies would ban fracking in certain areas - like strays, river corridors and green areas.

North Yorkshire County councillor Andrew Lee said: “We welcome the planning inspector’s decision in relation to the 500m zone, as this was intended to strengthen the protection of the world class environment and landscape of our beautiful county and the health and wellbeing of our residents and interests of our businesses.

“The measures in the plan extend the protection already provided in national policy. We will now give consideration to the detail of the planning inspector’s decision about the zone.”

The joint plan sets out planning policies for minerals and waste developments across the areas which will guide planning decisions until the end of 2030.