A DISTRICT council has been accused of unequal treatment of its market towns after rejecting a request to spend an extra £104,000 on essential repairs to a high street just two months after approving spending an extra £700,000 on improvements to another town centre.

Hambleton District Council's cabinet, which has repeatedly faced questions from some of its members over its focus on Northallerton rather than areas such as Bedale, said it did not believe Stokesley Town Council's request for a total of £215,000 to refurbish the cobbled area was fair.

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The district council's deputy leader, Councillor Peter Wilkinson, said while the lease that Hambleton entered in 1999 with Stokesley Town Council for the area of cobbles on the High Street in Stokesley was "open to some dispute", it gave joint responsibility for its maintenance.

He said a further dispute between the two authorities about how much of the maintenance they should pay for had continued and that in 2018 Hambleton had agreed to surrender the lease and provide a £110,000 grant to fully cover the cost of the repairs.

However, following lengthy delays signing the lease, the town council discovered there had been a sharp rise in the cost of the repairs to the cobbled area, where fairs have been held since the town was granted a charter in 1223 by Henry III.

In light of the cost increase, the town council asked Hambleton District Council to increase its grant to £215,000.

Cllr Wilkinson said the town council's request represented a 48 per cent increase on the sum that had previously been agreed and read an extract from a legal document highlighting how the two authorities shared responsibility for repairs.

He said Hambleton believed it was "appropriate" to contribute 52 per cent towards the revised costs.

Stokesley councillor Andy Wake told the meeting Hambleton had neglected Stokesley's conservation area over many years, resulting in many cobbles becoming loose and dangerous.

He said the council's care for a large piece of land in Stokesley's conservation area amounted to "plugging a hole with a bit of tarmac, plonking cobble on top, patting it down and giving it a quick tap".

Cllr Wake said: "It looks absolutely appalling.

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"The reason the town council want to increase the funding is the fact that Hambleton District Council have not carried out the right repairs.

"What I do find very frustrating is that this cabinet recently awarded an extra £700,000 towards maintaining Northallerton High Street."

Another Stokesley councillor, Bryn Griffiths, said the cobbles had been handed over to Hambleton "in a great state of repair", but had been let go by the district council.

In response, the authority's leader, Cllr Mark Robson, said the reason the district council had agreed to spend an extra £700,000 on Northallerton's High Street two months ago was "partly not to do with Hambleton, this was being gold-plated by the county council at the time".

He added the maintenance dispute was due to "the lack of forward-thinking" by the town council.


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