RESIDENTS have been given reassurances that controversial proposals to develop a large hotel and restaurant on the edge of a market town will not be decided until coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

Concerns have mounted in the Leyburn community after the plans to develop a 40-room hotel, 158-cover restaurant and garden centre the same size as an average Tesco superstore on a field off Harmby Road were lodged with Richmondshire District Council days before social distancing rules were launched.

While the government continues to work towards legislation that will enable council committees to hold online meetings, residents said they feared their opportunity to scrutinise and voice views could be curtailed if the authority presses ahead with the plans, which also include outside eating areas and a play barn.

Many residents have said while they had appreciated the former Dales Food And Drink Festival field would be developed, they have been stunned by the scale of the proposals.

The scheme, which would involve garden and farm supplies retailer Sam Turner and Sons and pubs with rooms chain Inn Collection, has generated numerous letters of both objection and support, with the most contentious issue appearing to be the effect the development would have on the local economy and town centre.

One supporter, Andrew Waites, said it was important to encourage local businesses to grow, but Leyburn town centre is restricted by building density and building ownership. He said: “When situations like this occur, there is no expansion opportunities for business, and it either stagnates, holds it own, dies or relocates out of the town.”

However, objector Rob MacDonald, said: “It is easy to accuse objectors of sentimentalism or nimbyism, but I think the many objections already raised to this proposal are economically as well as culturally grounded. Leyburn pulls off a rare achievement, to be both a viable, functioning hub for the local population and an authentically attractive, distinctive, rural market town. I believe this proposal will negatively disturb this delicate balance, possibly irrecoverably.”

Resident Alan Jarvis, whose property is just 15 metres from the proposed play barn, said there were many statements in the planning application that people were finding it hard to understand, so it was vital the planning process was put on hold. He said: “We would like these plans deferred until all the restrictions are lifted permanently.”

The authority’s planning committee chairman, Councillor John Amsden said it had been unfortunate that the planning application had been lodged just days before the restrictions came into effect. He confirmed no decisions would be made on the proposals until residents had been given ample opportunity to state their opinions, which would ultimately shape whether the was plan was given consent or rejected. He said: “It will go to committee. There’s no two ways about it. I will make sure there is a full consultation, as it would not be fair to the general public otherwise.”