A COUNCIL accused of incompetence over the handling of a controversial plan to transform a historic property into a children’s holiday centre has cancelled a meeting to reconsider the scheme for a second time.

Hambleton District Council announced the move to postpone a special planning meeting to consider the future use of Newby Wiske Hall, near Northallerton, less than 24 hours before councillors were due to make a decision.

The authority’s move followed campaigners battling the proposal to convert the grade II listed former North Yorkshire Police headquarters into a PGL activity holiday centre for up to 550 guests, creating 109 jobs.

The council said after being told that “local people had not had access to certain key documents relating to the meeting”, officers decided to delay the meeting for more than two months.

The authority’s deputy chief executive Mick Jewitt said: “We have listened to what local people have told us about not having had sufficient time to consider the documents and feel that the best way forward to ensure that the planning committee is able to make a sound decision is to delay this meeting.”

The latest meeting had been arranged after the authority postponed consideration of the scheme by its planning committee January, again to allow local people to consider documents.

Last year, despite residents concerns over noise from the centre, council resolved to approve the plan, but following a legal challenge which saw campaigners awarded costs, it agreed the scheme should be re-determined.

Campaigners questioned whether the decision to defer the meeting until May 29 would represent a further reputational blow to the council over planning, having previously been condemned over its loss of planning control at Bagby Airfield, near Thirsk.

Members of Newby Wiske Action Group (NWAG), who had raised concerns over the publication of the planning officers’ report over the application, said the council’s processes appeared to be shambolic.

They said while it was vital that residents had the opportunity to inspect and consider key documents, delaying the meeting again meant a further lengthy delay on a decision which was leaving a cloud of uncertainty over people’s lives and preventing some residents from being able to sell their homes.

Campaigner David Stockport said residents had already had to endure two years of uncertainty since the North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner had revealed her plan to sell the hall to PGL.

He added: “I have no doubt there are children in the north of England who will have grown beards before they get to come to Newby Wiske.”