CAMPAIGNERS will be pressing for a public debate tonight when a crucial decision is made on the future of one of Richmond's best-known buildings.

A meeting in the Town Hall a fortnight ago gave people an opportunity to discuss four bids to buy the old railway station.

However, when Richmondshire District Council's resources committee meets tonight, senior officers are suggesting councillors discuss their final decision behind closed doors.

"It is not a case of being secretive about the bids," said the council's monitoring officer, Margaret Barry.

"After all, the public had an opportunity to see presentations from the developers at the public meeting in October.

"At tonight's resources committee meeting, councillors will be asking highly confidential questions about the developers' financial standing, funding arrangements and ability to deliver their projects.

"This is personal and sensitive commercial information which, for obvious reasons, should not be in the public domain. As a result, councillors will be asked whether, in line with the legislation, part of the meeting, including the presentations to councillors, should be held without the press and public present."

Nevertheless, the suggestion has unsettled the Richmond Station Group, set up to represent the views of the public on the future of the old station.

After the Town Hall meeting last month, the group was urging its supporters to attend tonight to ask questions and listen to the debate - only to find they may be asked to leave before a decision is made.

"We will be asking that all presentations to the council by the four developers are held in public as well as the debate on the building's future," said chairman Sue Holden.

"We acknowledge there may be some information which is financially sensitive but we will be pressing the council to ask the applicants if there is anything they don't want discussed in the open; if not, then surely there would be no reason to hold any of the debate behind closed doors."

Former Richmond Mayor, Councillor John Harris, has also pressed the authority's leadership to be as open as possible over plans for the old station, ever since the sudden and controversial demise of the Garden and Farm Supply Centre a year ago.

Yesterday, he confirmed that a number of councillors would be suggesting that as much of the debate as possible is held in the open.

"It is important people are convinced that the council's decisions are made for the right reasons,'' he said.