Campaigners wearing the white rose of Yorkshire have demonstrated outside the High Court in London at the start of a legal challenge against one of the first planning applications to carry out fracking in England.
Residents from the village of Kirby Misperton, Rydale, North Yorkshire, are fighting to block a decision to allow hydraulic fracturing near their homes.
In a joint landmark application with environmental group Friends of the Earth, they are asking Mrs Justice Lang to rule the decision “unlawful” and quash it.
The lead campaigners, Reverend Jackie Cray and David Davis, gathered with many other rose-carrying demonstrators also armed with placards demanding: “Protect our health – Say no to fracking”.
Fracking company Third Energy was granted permission by North Yorkshire County Council in May 2016 to frack just a quarter of a mile from Mrs Cray’s home.
The Frack Free Ryedale campaigners, who have so far raised more than £7,000 to fund their application for judicial review, are accusing the local planning authority of failing properly to assess the climate change impact of burning shale gas obtained by fracking.
They and FoE also say the council is failing to secure long-term financial protection in the “likely” event that fracking will cause environmental damage.
David Wolfe QC, appearing for the residents and FoE, is arguing in court that the county council “misdirected itself in law” by concluding that it could not require Third Energy to provide a financial bond in relation to any long-term “legacy” environmental pollution arising from fracking.
Mrs Cray said: “This application was opposed by the Ryedale District Council, every Ryedale town council, 15 parish councils, businesses such as Flamingo Land, the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, the
Castle Howard Estate, and dozens of other groups and local businesses.
“The county council received 4,375 objections against the application and only 36 letters in favour, yet still approved the plans. We can’t call this democracy.”
Friends of the Earth’s Yorkshire and Humber campaigner, Simon Bowens, said: “North Yorkshire County Council failed in their legal duty to fully assess the impact this fracking application would have on the climate and in protecting their local communities against long term financial risks.
“We can’t afford to allow the fracking industry to just go on putting communities across the world at risk by developing a new, dirty, fossil fuel.”
Frack Free Ryedale and FoE are also both represented by Rowan Smith, a solicitor with law firm Leigh Day.
Mr Smith said: “We believe North Yorkshire County Council’s decision to allow fracking in Ryedale was clearly unlawful, owing to a failure to consider the climate change impact, despite earlier reports saying it was a relevant factor, and an error of law in concluding that a financial bond to protect against long-term damage to the local environment could not be asked for, when in fact it could have been.”