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COUNCILLOR EXCLUDED FROM MEETING OVER PERSONAL INTERESTS TAKES FIGHT TO COURT OF APPEAL

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A north Yorkshire councillor's claim that he was unfairly barred from a key council meeting where gravel extraction...
A north Yorkshire councillor's claim that he was unfairly barred from a key council meeting where gravel extraction from a site near his home was to be discussed, has moved to London's Court of Appeal.

The councillor is challenging dismissal by Mr Justice Richards at the High Court in April of his claim that he should not be excluded.

Paul Richardson, councillor for Masham and Fountains, had sought judicial review of North Yorkshire CC's June 2002 decision to grant an extension for sand and gravel extraction at the Ripon City Quarry, close by Ripon Racecourse.

He was backed in his challenge by local parish councillor, Wendy Orme, who claimed the decision to grant planning consent to Brown and Potter Ltd was flawed.

The two councillors claim the plans could affect vulnerable wildlife on the site by the River Ure, including otters, water voles, and bats, and that not enough account was taken of the potential environmental impact.

Councillor Richardson argued that his exclusion from the meeting was wrong and that the council also failed to make the reasons for its decision properly known in accordance with the provisions of the Town and Country Planning

(Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations 1999.

On the question of reasons Mr Justice Richards held there had been a failure to comply with the requirements of the regulations and ordered that a statement of the council's reasons for its decision should be made available to the public.

However, as far as Cllr Richardson's exclusion from the meeting was concerned the judge said it was plain he had a personal interest in the matter and in the circumstances he had been required to withdraw from the meeting in his capacity as a councillor.

However, he was not then precluded from attending the meeting in a personal capacity. But, said the judge, he had not at any time said that if he could not attend in his role as a councillor he wished to stay on a personal basis.

< p/="">In the Court of Appeal Robert McCracken argued that the council's failure to supply a statement of its reasons could not be overcome by a subsequent order that they were made public.

He said the subsequent substitute reasons given by the council had failed to show that there had been a 'sequential and transparent consideration of the environmental implications of the project' and claimed that the reasons had not been 'the result of discussion by all the committee members'.

He said 'only councillors in favour of the development were interviewed and then individually'.

He also argued that the Judge had 'erred in law' in his construction of, and approach to, the Code of Conduct in relation to Cllr Richardson's representative role.

He claimed the judge had been wrong to hold that as a matter of law any decision reached by the council would have been unlawful if Cllr Richardson had been allowed to take part in the making of it and to stay and address the meeting in a representative capacity.

The hearing continues.

STRAND NEWS SERVICE

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