Grant Woodward: Under this Government, we're well and truly fracked
So Yorkshire doesn't get a much-needed transport system but we do get to be fracking guinea pigs? Gee, thanks.
YOU only have to cast your mind back a couple of years to understand how London-obsessed Tories view the North when it comes to things like fracking.
Discussing the issue in the House of Lords, Lord Howell – a former energy secretary under Margaret Thatcher – made a case for it being contained in the “desolate” counties of our region.
When northern peers cried foul, he added “derelict” to his description for good measure, cautioning that “every time ministers claim fracking must start everywhere... they lose thousands of Tory votes.”
So, essentially, bung all the ugly, blot-on-the-landscape stuff up North where it won’t be noticed amid the general hideousness and people don’t tend to vote for us anyway, probably because we keep shafting them over everything from transport to Government jobs and now fracking.
Still, I hear you say, what does this old duffer have to do with the current Government? Surely they see him for the crackpot he is?
Well, Lord Howell just so happens to be George Osborne’s father-in-law. Which for everyone who lets out an involuntary snort every time the words “northern” and “powerhouse” are mentioned in the same sentence probably makes a lot of sense.
So we really mustn’t be so surprised when a Tory-led council agrees to inflict Tory-sponsored misery on one of the most picturesque corners of our stunning countryside.
Ok, so there were only 36 people out of 4,420 who supported the application to frack in Ryedale, right on the edge of the North York Moors National Park, but what the hell do you think this is, a democracy?
Planning officer Vicky Perkin compiled the report to North Yorkshire County Council that recommended they give fracking firm Third Energy’s plans the go ahead.
Yes, she noted, 99.19 per cent of the public were opposed to fracking. However, David Cameron and George Osborne were very keen on the idea (especially, you imagine, the bit about it being done 240 miles away from London).
Lo and behold, the council voted in favour by seven to four. So the politicians elected to represent the people voted 64 per cent in favour compared to their 99 per cent against. Like I said, what do you think this is, a democracy?
Yorkshire’s biggest city doesn’t get a major transport project, keeping it the largest in Europe without any sort of metro system, whether it be tram, tube or light rail.
But what do you know, one of Yorkshire’s finest beauty spots is given the honour of becoming the first fracking site since the procedure was banned in 2011.Aren’t we the lucky ones?
Going back a bit, you may remember that the reason for putting a freeze on fracking were those minor earthquakes – that’s right, earthquakes – in Lancashire which were traced back to fracking tests.
And this wasn’t a freak occurrence. Hence why there have been moratoriums on fracking in Scotland, Wales, New York, California, Texas, and Pennsylvania, to name just a few.
It’s also why people came from Australia and America to Yorkshire to tell the council committee what had happened in their countries when fracking was allowed.
They told horror stories of previously beautiful areas being devastated, once healthy rivers now bubbling with methane gas and water supplies poisoned with toxic chemicals.
I guess this is what Yorkshire can now look forward to. Because this decision by North Yorkshire County Council has effectively opened Pandora’s box.
Fracking wells run dry pretty quickly, so there will be a clamour for more sites. Applications from other companies are now going to be a lot harder to turn down.
And Lord Howell will get his wish. Our stunning countryside won’t be “desolate” for much longer.
We need more than half-measures on transport
WE’VE just been turned down for another tram – sorry, trolleybus – network and the metro system that Leeds so desperately needs now looks further away than ever before.
So the council has a hard sell on its hands with its tentative plans to ban cars from key routes in the city centre.
City Square would be transformed into a traffic-free “civic arrival space”, while the overall vision is of a city that’s easier to walk and cycle around with plenty of green space.
It sounds great – but I worry that without a metro system along the lines of that in Sheffield or Manchester it’s a mighty tall order. Quite simply, the public transport infrastructure isn’t there to make this work.
Closing Neville Street, for instance, which is among the suggestions, makes me wonder where all that traffic will go.
After all, it’s pandemonium every time high winds around Bridgewater Place force road closures.
The council is setting great store by park and ride, but I’m not convinced it’s the answer. After all, you still need to have a car to access it. Not exactly 21st century, is it?
At the moment it feels like Leeds is stuck in limbo. What we’re seeing are half-measures that won’t paper over the fact that this city needs a complete transport overhaul that includes a proper tram, monorail or similar that serves the entire city.
And that’s what we need to keep yelling for until we’re heard.
Heart goes out to Henry’s family
AS A parent, meningitis is one of your worst fears. The speed at which it can kill young children is truly the stuff of nightmares.
I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve checked our two for rashes or other tell-tale signs if they’re feeling under the weather.
Mark and Vicky Walter, from Stanningley, did all that when their three-year-old lad Henry complained of a tummy ache but found no symptoms of this horrible, horrible condition.
Yet at 5am they couldn’t wake him and just 20 minutes after arriving at hospital were told he wouldn’t make it.
The fact that they’re now telling their story to help raise money and awareness to combat this disease shows astonishing bravery.
After reading Mark and Vicky’s story I donated to Meningitis Now, the charity they’re supporting, in the hope they can come up with a cure. If you were touched too, why not do the same via henry.walter.muchloved.com.