A PAINTBALL park and quad bike track, which operated without planning permission for 20 months, has been given permission to stay open.

Plans for continued use of the site, described as a rare wet woodland habitat, at Flaxby Covert, Flaxby, near Knaresborough, have been approved by an area planning committee of Harrogate Borough Council.

Members voted for retrospective planning permission for the site, which includes temporary buildings, caravans and mesh fencing.

Councillors imposed a condition that the mesh fencing should be toned down from fluorescent green to a darker shade, preferably black, to blend in with tree bark.

The application, by HPC Outdoor Pursuits which has been operating from various sites for ten years, had been recommended for approval by planning officer Neville Watson.

Objections had been made against the scheme by Goldsborough and Flaxby Parish Council, the British Horse Society, Ramblers' Association and Bridleways' Association.

The parish council said development would mean damage to semi-natural habitats important to nature conservation.

It would also have an adverse impact on badgers, water voles and other protected species.

But Mr Watson said many of the issues could be addressed by a management plan which would include protection of sensitive wetland areas, restrictions at bird nesting time and rotation of activity allowing for land recovery.

Provision of bird nesting boxes and bat boxes could also be included.

Councillors agreed a management plan should be included as part of the conditions.