SKIPTON Town Council added insult to injury this week when it held discussions about the closure of Bold Venture playground in private.

Members of the safety and amenities committee agreed to exclude the press on the grounds that it would be "prejudicial to the public interest," to allow the proceedings to be reported.

Committee chairman John Binns said: "In view of the sensitivity of the item I would like to propose that the matter is held in private."

When questioned over the legality of the proposal by Coun Dennis Hall, the clerk Andrea Adams stated that it would be prejudicial to any sensible debate or discussion.

She later told the Herald that matters had come to light that were of economic and legal importance.

The item held in private was the closure of the playground off Keighley Road. The council recommended it be shut after an inspection by the North Yorkshire Playing Field Association.

This provoked an angry reaction, and it was agreed the subject would go back to committee on Monday after residents met with local councillors.

But, on arrival at the meeting, the Herald reporter was informed that she would be excluded from the item even though the press has a legal right to attend and report on council meetings.

The Public Bodies Act 1960 states that the public must be admitted to meetings and only excluded "whenever publicity would be prejudicial to the public interest because of the confidential nature of the business to be transacted or for other special reasons stated in the resolution and arising from the nature of that business."

The information due to be discussed has already been debated in the press.

And the Local Government (Access to Information) Act 1985 states that all meetings of principal authorities, their committees, and sub-committees should be open to the public.

The public and press can be excluded under a number of categories including those which detail information about an employee's job, a council tenant, adoption or fostering, a particular person's finances or business affairs, acquisition of property by the council, labour relations, and investigation or prosecution of offenders.

Some campaigners were also due to attend the meeting but changed their mind when, at the last minute, they were told they would not be able to speak.

Over the last week they have been busy trying to gather evidence to convince the council that it cannot build on the recreation ground.

Campaign leader Allison Smith and her sister Diane Paul spearheaded a petition and collected 200 signatures in four days. They have also acquired deeds to the land which was sold to the urban district council in 1924.

It states: "That the plot of land hereby conveyed shall forever hereafter be devoted, used and maintained by the council and their successors as and for the purposes of an open space recreation and pleasure ground or park."

It also adds that the council should at its own expense erect good and suitable fences around the land and forever maintain it in a good and proper state.

Mrs Smith pointed out that this proved the council had neglected its duty. "We are not asking for the world, we are just asking for a traditional playground," she said.

Mrs Smith has even taken the trouble to get a quotation from play equipment manufacturers Parkdale to bring the ground up to standard. For a basic slide, six swings, roundabout, a see saw, two seats, litter bins, safety surfacing, installation and a fence the company quoted £26,221.

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