Fracking could have a devastating impact on a North Yorkshire rural community if councillors allow an application to use the controversial mining method in Ryedale to go ahead, it was claimed today.
County Coun Lyndsay Burr urged North Yorkshire County Council's planning committee to reject Third Energy's plan to frack at a site close to Kirby Misperton.
The county's own planning experts have recommended the proposal should be given the go ahead.
Earlier, dozens of protestors had gathered outside County Hall, in Northallerton, to noisly voice their opposition to the fracking plan.
Coun Burr, whose ward includes Kirby Misperton, was the first of more than 80 speakers expected to oppose the planning application at today's meeting.
She said: "Fracking if allowed will devastate Ryedale. In a democracy, residents views must be taken into account.
"Residents against the application are regular people worried about health, water pollution, their children's well-being, lorries delivering plant to the site, lorries taking away water, impact on health, impact on visual landscape, disruption to rural life and the possibility of Ryedale being known as a fracking destination not a tourist destination.
Coun Burr was the first of a series of speakers opposing the application with each greeted with cheers from the campaigners protesting outside County Hall.
Planning committee chairman Peter Sowray had earlier admitted the fracking application was unlike any other planning application they had considered.
He said: "It is plainly obvious by the attendance today and bythe amount of correspondence received by members and the press coverage both locally and nationally that is is by far the most controversial application that we have ever had to deal with."
Coun Sowray said the committee had received "extra training" to ensure it was ready to make the decision.
He added: "We are a planning committee and we will only consider the material planning considerations of this application. We have to look at the application before us and only that.
"It is not for us to decide county policy or even national policy on fracking or what developments might or might not happen in the future."
The committee is not expected to make a decision until Monday when Third Energy will have the chance to put the case for the application.
Rasik Valand, chief executive of Third Energy, said: “Today sees the start of determination by North Yorkshire County Council’s planning committee of our application to hydraulically fracture our existing vertical well that was drilled in 2013 near the village of Kirby Misperton, on a wellsite that has been operational for decades.
"The planning officer’s positive recommendation comes after very detailed scrutiny of the application by the planning officer and statutory consultees and taking into account representations by members of the public and other groups.
"This work is reflected in the planning officer’s report together with the planning conditions proposed. We believe that this thorough report will enable North Yorkshire County Council to reach a positive determination on our application.
“Third Energy has been drilling wells, producing gas and generating electricity safely and discreetly in North Yorkshire for over 20 years and we will continue to maintain the same responsible approach in the future.”