CONTROVERSIAL plans to develop Richmond's former station building took more twists and turns this week.

Richmondshire District Council resources committee deferred its final decision at a meeting on Wednesday night.

The deferral followed a five-hour discussion behind closed doors, during which the committee heard of a new proposal to form a charitable trust to protect the Grade II listed building.

The idea was put to the authority only in the last week and councillors have expressed an interest in learning more about it.

The Civic Society has also thrown its hat into the ring by attempting to get the building elevated from Grade II to Grade I listed status.

Harold Dick, chairman of the society's planning sub-committee for Richmond, confirmed yesterday that an application had been submitted to English Heritage in London.

He said: "We became very worried and concerned about this very important building and as a result we decided we would try to protect it in the best way we could.

"The building is unique and must be of national interest. It is the only remaining terminal building on a minor branch line that is still in its original form."

If the building is upgraded it could severely hamper any development plans.

The council was criticised for holding Wednesday's meeting behind closed doors.

The mayor of Richmond, Coun Stuart Parsons, described it as "a Blackie day for democracy and a Blackie day for Richmond", a reference to Coun John Blackie, the leader of the district council and a member of the resources committee.

In a unanimous vote, committee members chose to enter into further discussions with two of the four proposed developers.

The Landteam, which proposes to relocate the Gemini Health and Fitness Club, create a family pub and restaurant and provide a crche for parents using the leisure facilities, has been shortlisted. The other preferred bidder is Encore! which has produced plans for an arts centre featuring a three-screen cinema, an arts area fitted for activities ranging from theatre and dance to art, historical museum tours and education, plus a railway-themed restaurant.

Both developers will now be asked to provide a detailed analysis of their financial standing and to demonstrate the viability of their business plans, as well as address any issues raised by councillors during Wednesday's meeting.

The charitable building preservation trust has also been invited to submit formal proposals at the next meeting.

The district council's chief executive, Harry Tabiner, said that pending further discussion with the trust, no decision regarding the future ownership of the building would be made