A controversial plan to convert a popular lorry park into a recreation area appears to have been abandoned after a move to buy the publicly-owned site for £193,000 less than its value on the property market was dropped.
A meeting of Richmondshire District Council’s corporate board was told Colburn Town Council had withdrawn its request to buy the lorry park site, despite having as recently as December reiterated its “sincere wish” to take control of the lorry park to stop the surrounding residential area being used as an open toilet.
The town council said the lorry park had been created in the 1970s beside an industrial estate for local drivers who used their own facilities, but had become surrounded by a residential estate and used by drivers passing through the area.
It said since the pandemic the situation for nearby residents had worsened as there no toilets had been available for the lorry park users in pubs or clubs and that recreational space was sorely needed in Colburn.
However, a proposal for the district council to sell the land to the town council for just £7,000, on the provision it would be used for community use created widespread concerns, particularly in neighbouring areas where it was feared the lorry park’s closure would lead to more lorry drivers parking overnight.
Concerns were also raised about Colburn disproportionately benefitting from the below mark sale of a district council asset.
The December meeting saw councillors prevented from debating the future of the site, but the council’s chairman, Councillor Clive World said the debate was being deferred on the back of “a promise for it to come back” at February’s full council meeting.
However, ahead of next week’s full council meeting, Councillor Yvonne Peacock, leader of the authority’s opposition Conservative group, said it had emerged the district council was now investigating a range of complementary uses for the lorry park and that there would be no debate again.
Cllr Peacock said: “I was certainly going to say we need it as a lorry park. The district council has not been in any position to make a decision to go out and start looking to develop a project that meets the aims of both the town and district council.
“It’s a back door move, because to me it was never given an opportunity to be debated at full council. At the moment that lorry park is the district council’s asset and was put there for a specific reason which I don’t think the reason has disappeared.”
Councillor Stuart Parsons replied there would be an open debate over whatever proposals came forward for the site.
The authority’s leader Councillor Angie Dale added: “It may be that the council invests money into toilet facilities which are very much needed on the site to actually run a lorry park in a built-up area.”
Cllr Richard Ormston said he believed the planned sale of the lorry park had fallen through because it hadn’t been well supported by the council’s ruling Richmondshire Together group.
He said: “To sell off an asset at £190,000 less than its true value I’m not surprised there isn’t enough support.”