A Richmond town councillor observed this week's meeting from the public gallery after a row over where he should sit continued.

Coun David Johnson, one of two Conservatives on the council, insisted it was his right to sit next to his Tory colleague, Coun Oliver Blease.

He said an expert in local government had advised him it would contravene the Human Rights Act if he was forced to return to the seat at the other end of the chamber which he had occupied since being elected in 1999. He said a seating plan which separated political groups was wrong.

However, Coun Tom Burrows, the mayor, said the expert had not been sure of the legal position and did not know which way the case would go if taken to court.

Coun Burrows asked Coun Johnson to return to his former seat. Coun Johnson refused but said he would compromise by sitting in the public gallery, which precluded him from speaking apart from during public question time.

Coun Jane Metcalfe said the council had never been a party political authority. "I am an Independent and I sit between two councillors known to be Liberal Democrats," she said. "We have never had political seating in this council and I would like to still think this council could continue its life as a non-political authority."

The council has already agreed to look again at the seating situation at the end of the year.

Footpath repairs. - Repairs to the footpath at the top of the market place were due to begin in September, the meeting was told.

In response to a question from Mr Alan Wilcox in the public gallery, Coun Burrows said North Yorkshire County Council had said work was due to begin then.

The town council also agreed to ask the Co-op to make its roundabout near the Friary superstore more attractive, following a complaint from Mr Wilcox.

Street lighting. - Richmondshire District Council was to be asked for costings to provide street lighting at the Batts, Friars Wynd, Mill Croft and Park Wynd after the authority turned down the town council's latest request to carry out the work. The meeting heard the request had been made annually for at least seven years without success.

Speed limit. - There was some concern over proposals for a 20mph speed limit in Darlington Road, near the schools. Some members felt traffic was already compelled to go very slowly in the morning and afternoon when children were arriving and leaving. Others, however, felt the limit was necessary to improve road safety and no objection was raised.

Seat grant. - The fabric and finance committee was given delegated powers to decide whether to grant a request from Richmond and district civic society for £260 towards a seat at Westefields, where coast to coast walkers entered Richmond. The society had already bought a £200 cast iron sign but needed extra cash for stone and a seat.

Hedges and trees. - North Yorkshire County Council was to be asked to trim overgrown hedges on the cemetery side of Reeth Road, towards Round Howe, and to replace diseased and dead trees in the Avenue and Darlington Road.

Other matters. - The district council was to be asked to replace a Tower Street road sign removed during renovation work.

Coun John Harris asked the town council to consider providing a dog waste bin in Darlington Road, possibly at Whitefields, which the district council would empty.

Coun Clive World asked that a letter of congratulation from the council be sent to Richmond swimmer Miss Nicola Jackson, who won a gold medal at the world championships in Japan last week.

The mayor announced that the crew of HMS Richmond, the town's adopted ship, would attend the town's Remembrance Sunday parade in November. They would tbring a rugby team to play against Richmond rugby club on the Saturday.

Organisations wishing to hold coffee mornings at the town hall next year must apply to the town council before September 30.