Did Ryedale Conservatives vote in favour of fracking at the Council meeting held on 17th February 2015?

Some councillors claim they had to follow advice given by the Council's Monitoring Officer and solicitor, who said the motion set before the Council by Councillor Clark was too much of a "blanket" policy prohibition as to be unlawful. I am a retired local government solicitor and I did not accept the Council Solicitor’s advice at the meeting. My opinion has not changed. In order to avoid legal arguments which will bore most readers, I would simply point out that other councils, such as York City Council have succeeded in passing anti-fracking motions, presumably without fear of the dire legal consequences Ryedale Council members were warned about.


The Council Solicitor’s main point was that the proposed motion amounted to a “blanket” policy prohibition. Even if he was correct, his advice could have been satisfied by a different form of words than the amendment which Ryedale's Conservative Group voted through.


The original motion says: “Ryedale District Council completely opposes all Fracking in Ryedale”.


This could have been amended by adding the words “in principle” at the end of the motion or of substituting the word “generally” for the word “completely” and deleting the word “all”, so that the motion, as amended, could have read: “Ryedale District Council opposes all Fracking in Ryedale in principle” or “Ryedale District Council generally opposes Fracking in Ryedale”


These were simple amendments which would have maintained an anti-fracking position without amounting to a blanket policy prohibition.


Instead, the Conservative Group forced through an amendment with the following key sentence: “The Council will only support applications for fracking or exploration preparatory to fracking if it is satisfied that public concerns about the potential damage to the environment have been resolved satisfactorily.”


We all know how little notice the Conservative Group takes of public concerns from the superstore saga.


The word “only” in their amendment is a double negative in the context, and has little significance. It is a kind of sleight of hand. All it does is make the amended motion masquerade as something which it is not. The Conservative amendment, in essence, supports the principle of fracking subject to compliance with some conditions. It is not very (if at all) different from national Conservative Party policy. So Ryedale can now be counted amongst the districts which are firmly pro-fracking.


The Conservative Party used to be considered the party of the Countryside. Sadly we now know, from their policies on fracking, that this is no longer the case. They are only interested in big business and the South East. Their local Council Group lost its right to be trusted and taken seriously a long time ago.



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