Friends of the Earth and its supporters claim to have found evidence that a rare species of bat could be affected by Third Energy's fracking plans
Unsurprisingly, they've called for all work to halt, even leaning on North Yorkshire police and asking it to intervene.
They say that a previous bat survey was flawed and that a more recent one undertaken by someone else has found evidence of bats nearby including a rare species that's only found in Ryedale and one other place in the country. They claim that fracking could disturb their foraging and that nighttime lighting on the site could pose a problem for bats too.
To be honest, it sounds like a typical Friends of the Earth ploy: throw-in some sort of last-minute objection, that sounds half plausible, just to eek out a bit more of a delay in the hope of dissuading investors and rallying the public behind them.
Bats benefit from a lot of protection under UK wildlife laws. More so, even, than the infamous Great Crested Newt.
According to official guidance, it is against the law to do certain things including:
deliberately capture, injure or kill bats
damage or destroy a breeding or resting place
obstruct access to their resting or sheltering places
possess, sell, control or transport live or dead bats, or parts of them
intentionally or recklessly disturb a bat while it’s in a structure or place of shelter or protection
In England and Wales, the relevant legislation is the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) (as amended); the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, 2000; the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (NERC, 2006); and by the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations (2010).
Third Energy's planning documents reveal that fracking is a daytime activity only, and so the pumping - the noisy bit - won't be taking place at dusk and at night when bats are active. So it would seem that any suggestion of bat commuting and foraging routes being disturbed as a result of noise is a bit far fetched.
Whilst the frack stimulations themselves will be undertaken during the daytime (for 2-3 hours per frack stage, but spread over about 5 hours per day) preparation in between the frack stages will be undertaken 24 hours a day and will require 24 hour lighting.
Is this really going to pose a problem to any nearby bats? It seems that depends on the particular species - for some bats, the extra nighttime lighting is actually beneficial. Does nearby Flamingo Land turn out all its lights at night, and if not, why isn't that a concern?
The only question that really matters is: will Third Energy be breaking the law if it proceeds? Reading the guidance as a layperson, it would appear not. And if it's not breaking any laws, and has all the necessary legal permissions it needs, it looks like it should be able to go ahead and that this really is just another eleventh-hour stunt from Friends of the Earth.