Harrogate votes for a “Frack Free” future

19 October 2016

In a lively and sometimes impassioned debate at the Wesley Chapel, the latest Harrogate Debate saw an overwhelming vote in favour of the motion that: “This House calls for an Immediate End to Fracking in the UK”.

The debate took place on the same day that the government announced a go-ahead to fracking in Lancashire…and presumably Yorkshire cannot be far behind.

Just over 100 townspeople packed into the Wesley Chapel to hear local campaigner John Plummer list a number of environmental and other reasons to reject fracking, most notably the vast quantities of water involved, the pollution of that water (which cannot be reused), the impact on ground water, the potential damage to homes and the stress on transport infrastructure. He quoted USA and Australian sources and noted the evasiveness of the fracking industry in answering questions. He argued that solar, wind and waves offered better, cleaner and more acceptable sources of energy than gas fracking.

In opposition, Ken Wilkinson questioned the research data upon which the opposition case was based. He argued that health concerns (asthma, for example) were not validated by the data. Early worries about shale gas extraction were the result of very poor practice and badly designed wells: modern fracking processes, he said, show no established link between shale gas extraction and health effects. He questioned the objectivity of Friends of the Earth and other campaigning groups who could not, he said, substantiate all their claims. Modern engineering and tight operational controls should alleviate anxieties about fracking. Moreover the prize is cheaper abundant energy.




Seconding the motion, Ian Crane cast doubt on the ability of regulators to control disposal and pollution problems and the ability of local communities to stand up to £multi-million extraction companies. While Lorraine Allanson, in opposition, emphasised the human costs of fuel poverty, the need to replace dwindling gas supplies from the North Sea and elsewhere and the beneficial use of hydro-carbons in almost every aspect of modern life.

Contributions from the floor were almost entirely in support of the motion and some were clearly made by local residents who had expertise in the subject and could speak from a scientific/engineering background. Two of the most telling questions were: exactly where and how would the contaminated water be disposed; and what confidence the community could have in the operation of the wells if nobody except the industry is in control?

When it came to a vote the motion was overwhelmingly carried by more than10:1.

Given the developments in Lancashire this may well be the start rather than the end of the debate about fracking in our locality.

The next Harrogate Debate will be in the New Year on the subject of NHS Funding. Details on HarrogateDebate.org


  1. A very fair report! It always was going to be a loss as the local ‘anti’ groups were in mass attendance! Neutral observers said they were impressed with the evidence Lorraine and I presented.
    The fact is that when most people are given properly sourced information (as I did) they realise that are no real issues. So many concerns about water, so why do Yorkshire Water have no issues? And why can’t Friends of the Earth sustain their claims of water contamination, after my complaint against them?

    And most tellingly, why do so many elite engineering bodies find that properly done fracking is safe? They are not idiots!

    And why did the anti side have to call on a chemtrails believing conspiracy theorist to present their ‘technical’ evidence. Especially as he has never worked in the drilling industry!

    I feel that if a poll was taken among the general population the results would be completely different.

    • I doubt that the poll you suggest would be very much different Ken, and as for your “properly done Fracking being safe”, the results are somewhat different from your words just enter ‘Fracking disasters Netherlands’ in Google to see.

  2. “…local campaigner John Plummer list a number of environmental and other reasons to reject fracking, most notably the vast quantities of water involved [the hotel and food service sectors uses significantly more water every year] the pollution of that water (which cannot be reused) [actually, the wastewater is quite easily cleaned-up and returned to the natural environment for continued use http://resource.co/article/Comment/water039s_fine-3365%5D, the impact on ground water [unlike the US, only around 1% of households in England rely on private water supplies on their own land, meaning 99% of us are supplied with water from above-ground reservoirs via pipes to our taps – the mechanisms and pathways for pollution are simply not the same as the US], the potential damage to homes [according to seismologists and geologists, there is no risk to people’s homes from earth tremors because the sun-surface conditions simply don’t allow sufficient energy to be released], and the stress on transport infrastructure [but our roads already see tens of thousands of road tanker and other HGV movements every year] he quoted USA and Australian sources [where regulations and practices are wholly different – and in many ways not as good as the UK].

    • 1) 1% of households in England would equate to roughly 500,000 people, so that’s “only” 500,000 at risk of water contamination
      2) Of the remaining 99%, a large proportion receive their water from places other than overground reservoirs. In Ryedale for example, water is supplied either by extraction from rivers (mainly the Derwent) or from underground aquifers, both of which are at risk of contamination
      You may also recall that when the public water supply in the North West was compromised in 2015, 300,000 households were affected for several weeks. (https://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/sep/23/united-utilities-faces-25m-bill-over-water-contamination-scandal). And contaminants returned from flowback water may not be so easy to shift as a cryptosporidium infection
      Rather than smugly dismissing water contamination as not a problem in the UK, the impact of any such pollution may in fact be much greater: it wouldn’t just be a small cluster of households left without water. As an industry insider Lee, you ought to know better than to try to mislead the public. Each little deception nibbles away a little more at the fracking industry’s credibility.

  3. I think the argument that the people there were there were all anti frackers is spurious! A lot of people I talked to were willing to be swayed by the arguments presented by Ken, but they just did not hold water. In the first place if he had not sat there with that silly T shirt on pulling faces whilst John Plummer spoke people may have listened to him. Both John and Ian were very polite and listened carefully to Ken’s arguments which just did not hold water. In these days of rising global temperatures we do not want to be using any more fossil fuels but looking for green options. We have to be thinking about heating by electricity and not gas in the next 20 years. We have a moral and legal obligation ( see the 2008 Governments Climate Change Act and UK regulations) to reduce CO2 emissions by 2050 including GHG emissions!! Releasing methane into the atmosphere will not help reduce emissions but increase them. Anybody with a modicum of sense and intelligence can see that hydraulic fracking is not the way forward which is probably why the vote for the motion was so high!

  4. The waste water is a significant problem, as is the solid waste as it is heavily contaminated and is produced in huge volumes. And far from being easy to clean up – experts have stated that we cannot even test for all the pollutants, the technology simply does not exist. Only someone with a vested interest would state otherwise.

  5. I too attended the debate. Harrogate makes it’s living out of selling groundwater and visitors, why would we risk cocking up both on a further fossil fuel?
    Daft idea as far as I am concerned and the vast number of citizens at the debate thought so as well.

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