COUNCILLORS in Ryedale are calling on their council to employ its own minerals expert, so they can challenge a draft policy document on fracking in North Yorkshire.

A special meeting of Ryedale District Council is being held on Thursday to debate a motion by independent Malton councillors Paul Andrews and Lindsey Burr, requesting the council employs its own specialist officer in minerals planning.

York Press:

They want Ryedale to be exempt from North Yorkshire County Council’s draft Minerals and Waste Joint Plan, which sets out guidelines on the development of future shale gas extraction sites in the county.

More than a dozen licences have been issued for gas exploration in North Yorkshire, including the North York Moors, but the extent and commercial viability of these sites will only be established once drilling begins.

The county council’s minerals and waste plan took four years to draw up and covers policy on mining, quarrying and waste disposal. A draft plan has already been approved which has now been sent to an independent planning inspector to check it is in line with national policy. The examination is expected to contain a number of public hearings on key issues before the inspector recommends whether the plan can be adopted.

Ryedale District Council has already made its opposition to fracking in the district known.

Cllr Andrews says the document would allow for too high a density of well pads.

He said: “The plans allow ten pads per 100 sq km. It doesn’t sound a lot but it’s 38 square miles. If you had ten sites equally spaced out over 38 square miles it’s one every three miles. It would completely industrialise this part of the countryside.”

As a result the two councillors want Ryedale exempt from the policy.

Cllr Andrews said Ryedale’s Local Plan, which has already been adopted and approved by the government, prohibits the type of surface development involved in hydraulic fracturing.

“We have an approved local plan which says this part of North Yorkshire has specialist landscape character and restricts and prohibits industrial development all over this area,” he said.

“What we’re saying is it is totally inconsistent to have fracking pads all over the county with the local plan that the government has already approved.”

Cllr Burr added: “Potentially there could be a lot of wells in our area. We just need to make sure we’re ready if this goes to an inquiry.

“At the moment we haven’t got that expertise as we’re a small council. As far as I know we would be the first council to have an expert in waste and minerals planning.”