Anti-fracking protesters shout insults during planning meeting

Protestors at the test site on Crawberry Hill
Protestors at the test site on Crawberry Hill

Protesters shouted insults at members of East Riding Council’s planning committee after they granted permission to an energy company to extend its fracking exploration work at Crawberry hill, Walkington.

Rathlin Energy (UK) Limited was granted a further 18 months to continue with test drilling into underground wells in search for shale gas.

However protesters who had been allowed into the public gallery for the planning committee meeting at County Hall, Beverley, shouted comments including “Shame on you!” and “Have you got children?”

One protester shouted “Just you wait till your water is polluted!” and another shouted “Some of you will live to regret what you have done today!”

A total of 331 letters of objection had been submitted by local residents prior to the meeting. According to the planning report, their concerns included visual impact, heavy vehicle access, noise and vibration caused by drilling, lack of independent inspections, damage to local wildlife and a cause of divisions within the local communities. Objections also came form parish councils at Walkington. Newbald and Woodmansey.

Speaking on behalf of the protesters, John Mager said: “Rathlin have a permit to flare up to 93 tonnes of methane a day as part of the testing they propose. Nowhere in the report is there an assessment of the negative impact on carbon emissions arising from testing or the production of oil and gas for up to 50 years that are a likely consequence of a decision to support the report today.”

He said the technology being used was “almost 100 per cent unsafe” and that there was a risk the company could damage the water Aquifer which would have repercussions for hundreds of thousands of people.

However there were no objections to the application from Yorkshire Water, nor the Environment Agency, Highways Control or the council’s Public Protection Division.

Rathlin chairman David Montagu-Smith told the meeting that the company needed an extension partly because its work had been hindered by protesters. He said they had blocked access to the site and damaged fencing, and that there’d been further delays as a result of police asking wagon drivers to use alternative routes to access the site.

Coun Charlie Bayram was met with jeers from the public gallery when he said: “At the end of the day this is only a test drill. It is not an application for hydraulic fracking. The operator has pointed that out and I have to accept that.”

Coun Mally Boatman said it was with a “heavy heart” that he supported the application. He said: “We’re looking at an extension to carry out something that was originally given planning permission anyway. If we refuse I’m sure it will only end up as an appeal situation.”

Coun Michael Whitehead pointed out that nothing had materially changed and asked planning officer Andy Wainwright if Rathlin had done anything wrong, to which he replied that officers had visited the site but had found no evidence that any planning conditions had been breached

Although the company had asked for a two-year extension, the planning committee only granted a period of 18 months, which includes a six-month period to restore the site.