The North Yorkshire authorities have welcomed the planning inspector’s indicative response to key policies relating to fracking in the region.
The inspector, Elizabeth Ord, was considering evidence for proposals from the ‘joint authorities’ (City of York Council, North Yorkshire County Council and North York Moors National Park Authority) during the public examination of the joint minerals and waste plan for the region.
The joint authorities had been asked to provide additional evidence to support policies which cover:
- A separation distance of 500m between above-surface fracking proposals and anyone’s home. Any proposals for such development within 500m would only be permitted where it is robustly evidenced that there would be no unacceptable impacts; and
- Legal protection for parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty, scheduled monuments, registered battlefield, listed historic parks and gardens, and the historic setting of York. This would exclude a number of areas around the city from fracking. These include the strays, river corridors, green areas and village and rural settings.
Following today’s evidence, the inspector is satisfied with the policy relating to areas of beauty, parks and the setting of York. The inspector has also indicated that she is satisfied with the joint authorities’ position regarding protecting certain areas from fracking to protect the special characteristics and heritage of York and with regard to the 500m zone, she has indicated she is provisionally satisfied that this is sound, but has indicated she will give further consideration to representations on this point from the UK gas and oil industry who have objected to this restriction in strong terms.
The inspector’s indicative view is encouraging and a step towards achieving a heightened level of policy protection from fracking, for the special characteristics of this part of the Yorkshire landscape, the heritage of York and the residents within the plan area.
County Councillor Andrew Lee, executive member for planning, 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.
“This plan has been over four years in the making, amended and refined over this period by taking into account responses from extensive consultation. Once adopted, it will become the bible for guiding future planning decisions.”
Councillor Andrew Waller, deputy leader and executive member for the environment, said: “This is very welcome news. It is important to remember that the inspector has not made a final decision, and any modifications will be subject to further consultation. However, we are encouraged by the inspectors comments and are satisfied that our arguments have been given a fair and considered hearing.
“Our policy recognises the value of our city’s natural environment. We are therefore asking for our city’s special features and characteristics to remain free of drilling operations.
“Our policy also protects our residents, who have a legal right not to experience massive increases in noise levels of large rigs. The rigs can also be very visually intrusive, requiring screens up to ten metres high.
“We have presented this case clearly to the inspector, and look forward to her findings in due course.”
Councillor Peter Dew, executive member for planning, said: “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 minerals and waste planning authorities are working together to produce a minerals and waste joint plan to cover the whole region. Once finalised, it will set out new planning policies for minerals and waste developments across all three areas which will guide decisions on planning applications up to 31 December 2030.
Following public consultation on the plan, the government has appointed a planning inspector to carry out a public examination of the plan.
City of York Council has presented this additional evidence for examination on Friday 13 April. This can be found on our minerals and waste joint plan examination page here.