A NEW anti-fracking lobby group has been set up to encourage candidates in upcoming elections to make their position on fracking clear to voters.

The Frack Free United group launched their national project in Hovingham on Monday morning.

With county council elections happening on Thursday, May 4, not only in North Yorkshire but across the country, the group has been set up partly to create an online list of candidates who hold an anti-fracking stance.

The group has penned an anti-fracking ‘pledge’ which potential councillors can take.

All candidates standing for election in authorities where the shale gas industry is a presence are being urged by the group to go to the website and sign this pledge.

The pledge that candidates can sign reads: “If my Council area constituency, division or ward is at risk of fracking, I will actively oppose it and I will oppose fracking nationally.”

Founder member of the group, Steve Mason said:”With 14 counties under threat from fracking going to the polls in May, it is becoming clear that to stop the industry we have to change the minds of those in power or change the people in power making the decisions.

“I don’t want my kids fighting the same battle when they grow up.”

Although it has been established in Ryedale, the new Frack Free United network is made up of campaign groups and communities opposed to the industry across the country.

The group’s website has maps of shale gas exploration licenses which cover areas from Somerset to Surrey, Cumbria to Kent.

Simon Bowens of Friends of the Earth was at the launch. He said: “Councillors will be taking critical decisions on fracking.

“We would urge all councillors to commit to oppose fracking if elected.”

When ballot papers are published, Frack Free United is also encouraging the public to come to the website and find out where the candidates seeking to represent them stand on fracking.

Elizabeth Shields, North Yorkshire county councillor, said:”Recent attention around fracking has been very much focused on Ryedale, but many people don’t realise that now the well at Kirby Misperton has been given the go ahead, other companies, such as INEOS and Cuadrilla, will be heading their way both in North Yorkshire and across the country.

“PEDL licences are held by these companies across huge swathes of North.

“That’s why Frack Free United has to make this an election issue.”

A list of councillors from local areas who have signed the pledge will be found at frackfreeunited.org.

The decision to allow a test-frack at the Kirby Misperton ‘KM8’ well was taken by county councillors of the North Yorkshire planning committee in May last year. It was taken in line with the planning officer’s recommendation.

Since then, Frack-Free Ryedale and Friends of the Earth launched a High Court appeal against the decision in November, but after a month of deliberation the judge found in favour of the council, ruling that their decision was lawful and that the terms and conditions afforded “a considerable degree of protection to residents.”

Third Energy, the company who applied to test for shale gas at KM8, are set to carry it out later this year.