Opinion column with Clive Hinchliffe

A shale gas fracking rig in the United States.
A shale gas fracking rig in the United States.

The Government’s apparent abandonment of plans to reduce planning control over shale gas exploration will be welcomed by Pocklington people.

Virtually the whole of East Yorkhire has been licensed for fracking, or high volume hydraulic fracturing.

The only attempt to use the technique so far – at Preese Hall in Lancashire – was abandoned when minor earthquakes shook the area in 2011. It was reported that radioactive material was also found in waste water from the site.

A moratorium was placed on fracking following Preese Hall, but the Conservative Government has since lifted this ban despite evidence of health concerns, pollution and environmental damage in other countries.

Cuadrilla, the company at Preese Hall, holds many of the fracking licences around Pocklington.

It was given the go-ahead by the Government to drill at Preston New Road in Lancashire, even though the local authority refused planning permission.

North Yorkshire County Council approved fracking by Third Energy at Kirby Misperton near Pickering despite local opposition.

Cuadrilla has faced legal challenges and protest action at Preston New Road and accounts show its parent company lost $11.6 million in 2016.

Third Energy is also facing protests in Yorkshire; its majority owner, Barclays Bank, is quitting shale gas and Third Energy was recently warned by the Environment Agency for breaching its permit.

In an apparent attempt to help fracking companies, the Conservatives said in their General Election manifesto that they would remove the need for planning permission for exploratory drilling and take other shale planning decisions away from local authorities. Opposition parties said they would ban fracking if elected.

The Conservatives surprisingly lost their Commons majority at the election and much of the party’s manifesto has now been abandoned.

The Queen’s Speech contained no mention of plans to weaken planning control.

If fracking goes ahead, vast numbers of wells will be drilled across East Yorkshire – up to 10 wells per square mile, according to documents prepared by Ineos, another fracking company with interests here. Industrialisation, air pollution, constant heavy lorry movements and damage to the landscape can all be expected.

Environmental authorities in the United States, where fracking is well established, have warned that operations can pollute water supplies. East Yorkshire sits on a huge aquifer – one that is vital for drinking water.

The risk to human health has been highlighted in hundreds of peer-reviewed research studies that have linked fracking to cancer-causing chemicals, cardiology hospitalisations, increased numbers of skin conditions, upper respiratory conditions, high-risk pregnancy, pre-term birth and low birth weight in infants.

And fracking could also cause economic damage.

The tourism industry, which is worth £500 million each year to East Yorkshire, could be hit, as could the farming industry, which relies on the land.

A report for the UK Government has warned that residents near fracking operations could see as much seven per cent wiped off the value of their homes.

The General Election result may have hindered plans to loosen planning control, but East Yorkshire still faces a significant threat from energy companies wanting to frack for gas.