THE CONTROVERSIAL decision to allow fracking in North Yorkshire could be challenged in the High Court.

Friends of the Earth and the local protest group, Frack Free Ryedale, are applying for a judicial review of the decision to allow Third Energy permission for shale gas extraction.

North Yorkshire County Council voted in May to allow fracking at Kirby Misperton, for the first fracking site in the UK since 2011.

The approval prompted fierce criticism from many who opposed the decision, saying the move was undemocratic. The plans received 4,375 formally recognised letters of objection and 36 letters of support.

Councillors approved the plans by 7 votes to 4, saying they were satisfied the plans safeguarded the natural environment and that ground and surface water would be protected from contamination.

Friends of the Earth submitted the application with the High Court on Wednesday, saying it believed the decision was unlawful.

The legal bid claims the council failed to properly assess climate change and the environmental impact of burning gas extracted to create electricity at a power station in Knapton.

The case will also set out to prove the council failed to secure long-term financial protection against environmental damage.

David Davis, from Frack Free Ryedale, said many residents felt powerless after their heartfelt campaigns and objections failed to persuade the council to refuse planning permission.

“If you apply for planning permission and it’s refused, you have a right of appeal," he said.

"But when planning permission is approved and people object, there’s no appeal process. It’s as simple as that. So this is the democratic process that we can use.”

Friends of the Earth said there had been a “clear rejection” of fracking by residents in North Yorkshire.

Simon Bowens, Yorkshire and Humber campaigner for the charity said: “Shale gas is a dirty fossil fuel and it is the responsibility of North Yorkshire County Council to require a full assessment of the impact this fracking application would have on the climate.

"They failed to do that, and this is why we believe the courts need to consider the way that this decision was arrived at by seven councillors in May.”

Jackie Cray, a retired vicar from Kirby Misperton, who runs the local parent and toddler group, said: “North Yorkshire County Council has a moral and legal responsibility to ensure against harm to current and future generations.

“We believe that they have failed in that duty in two key areas, climate change as well as making sure that there is enough money to clean up if anything went wrong.”

Third Energy said it had not yet seen the application, but said they felt confidence the council had followed the correct processes in approving the application.

The council said in a statement: “North Yorkshire County Council’s planning committee gave proper regard to all material planning considerations before approving the application by Third Energy to undertake fracking for shale gas in the vicinity of Kirby Misperton.”