'Are you going to chuck me out?' Residents' emotions boil over at council meeting as huge country store approved

A council leader has condemned residents’ behaviour after a councillor was confronted as emotions boiled over during a planning meeting to decide proposals for a huge country store and hotel.

Richmond

Richmondshire District Council leader Councillor Angie Dale issued the rebuke after residents repeatedly interrupted a meeting of the authority’s planning committee as it considered a proposal to build a 2,501sq m Sam Turner and Sons country store and play barn and 40-bedroom hotel off Harmby Road, Leyburn.

The meeting saw the development, which will feature outdoor seating areas and a 276-cover restaurant in the hotel, approved after councillors concluded residents would benefit from 50 full-time and 40 part-time jobs at the ventures.

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Sam Turner and Sons director Charlie Turner told members the family business had been trading in Leyburn for many years and finding a suitable site “to commit to the town”, as it had in Northallerton, Darlington and Stokesley, was a long-held ambition.

He said the field was likely to be built on sooner or later and the proposed development would be preferable to residents than alternatives such as a housing estate.

Members said they believed the hotel would offer more accommodation choice to visitors and enable more people to visit the Dales, while Sam Turner was a local business with a good reputation that deserved the council’s support.

However, the meeting heard despite a decision on the proposal being postponed two months ago in a bid to iron out issues with neighbours, some residents felt they had again been overlooked. Residents said they remained deeply concerned over matters ranging from lorry delivery times and road safety to flooding.

Residents told the committee the garden store, featuring expanses of cladding and glazing, would “obliterate” views of the surrounding countryside and appear an alien structure in Leyburn, particularly as it would be twice the size of the town’s largest shop.

They added a proposed 2.4m acoustic fence on the edge of the development to reflect noise from the development was not high enough due to an incline between the site and the gardens of neighbouring properties.

As the authority’s former deputy leader, Councillor Ian Threlfall, questioned whether increasing the height of the fence would create an eyesore one elderly resident walked up to the committee table and challenged him.

The committee’s chairman, Councillor John Amsden and other members told the resident to return to his seat six times, but the resident refused saying it was vital Coun Threlfall realised how important gardens were to residents.

Long-serving councillor William Heslop then suggested the resident be ejected from the meeting, to which the resident replied: “Are you going to chuck me out?”

The authority’s leader Councillor Angie Dale then suggested environmental health officers should review the fence height.

She added: “I don’t think members of the public have done themselves any favours, especially coming over to a member who is sat here at the table. I know it is emotive and I know that sometimes we have to make decisions that are unfavourable, but that has done no favours whatsoever.”