A COUNCILLOR who has taken a freedom-of- speech battle to the High Court in London says his stance has already won him widespread backing.

Paul Richardson is challenging a decision by his own council - North Yorkshire County Council - which said that under new code of conduct rules he would not be able to address a planning committee meeting.

The Conservative member for Masham and Fountains now finds himself challenging the Tory-controlled council.

Councillor Richardson had wanted to speak out against a quarry expansion in his constituency at Littlethorpe, near Ripon.

Coun Richardson, who represents the village on the council, has been joined in the action by Littlethorpe parish councillor Wendy Orme.

He said: "Since the High Court action became known I have been delighted with the backing I have received, not only locally, but from as far off as London.

"It seems a lot of other people feel the same way as I do. I was delighted that the judge agreed the case could proceed to the next stage of the legal process.

"I am grateful to those who are supporting me because I believe the new code of conduct needs clarification. Even if the case eventually failed I would still think I have done the right thing in taking this up," he said.

Although he was not a member of the planning committee and did not have a vote, it was decided Coun Richardson had an interest in the issue and was unable to speak on behalf of local people as he lived near the quarry.

After considering the issue, a planning meeting voted 5-4 to approve expansion plans at Ripon City Quarry near the city's racecourse.

A county council spokesman said they had been following the Government's new code of conduct to which councillors had signed up.