TAXPAYERS are facing a bill of thousands after a theme park won a battle with a local council over an "unreasonable" planning decision.

Flamingo Land, near Malton, North Yorkshire, was given permission to build the 55-metre Cliffhanger ride by Ryedale Council in 2000.

However, once the ride was built, the park was ordered to remove red and white striped cladding, which the council said was obtrusive and contrary to agreed plans.

In a bid to compromise, theme park bosses appealed to keep the bottom four stripes and paint the remaining part grey.

Officers agreed with this suggestion, but it was rejected by councillors.

Flamingo Land successfully appealed against the decision.

At a hearing, planning inspector Peter Davies said the council was at fault for making a decision which was contrary to officers' advice and council policy.

He said: "I find that unreasonable behaviour resulting in unnecessary expense has been demonstrated."

He ordered that the council paid the full costs, understood to be several thousand pounds.

Flamingo Land chief executive, Gordon Gibb, said he was pleased to have been proved right.

But he added: "As a taxpayer in Ryedale, I am outraged.

"The costs have reimbursed us for expenses we shouldn't have had to incur, but that poor decision is ultimately going to cost the taxpayer.

"It would seem to me ridiculous that the professionals at Ryedale District Council have had their views run rough-shod over by the planning committee, which the independent inspector took a very dim view of."

The development control manager for Ryedale District Council, Gary Housden, said: "Our officers' assessment was that, at that level, there wasn't any impact and we recommended approval. Regrettably, members weren't minded to take that recommendation."

Councillor Allin (COR) Jenkins, who was chairman of the planning committee when the decision was made, said: "This happens. I think the members felt that the tower ride should be as it was on the original application, a clear structure, not the red and white stripes.

"That was a democratic decision, the applicant had a right to appeal and he has won.

"This happens on a number of occasions, some of them win, some of them don't."