SKIPTON’S new mayor is Alan Hickman - the first Labour councillor to be elected chairman of the town council since the 1970s.

Cllr Hickman, one of the two Labour councillors on Skipton Town Council and a major in the Salvation Army, was elected to the post at last week’s annual meeting of the council.

His consort during his year in office, which will run until next May, when the whole council will be up for re-election, will be his wife, Marie Hickman.

Cllr Peter Madeley, the other Labour councillor on the council, was elected deputy mayor, and will also continue in his role as deputy leader. Cllr Madeley is also a member of Craven District Council.

Leader will continue to be Cllr Chris Clark (Conservative), while former shadow leader, Cllr Robert Heseltine (Independent) will be replaced by Cllr Karen McIntyre (Independent).

Cllr Hickman, who represents Skipton West, thanked his fellow councillors for ‘taking the risk’ and having sufficient confidence to make him mayor for the year.

“I have not sought this office nor do I consider myself to be special. Indeed some may well view my ways as rather foolish, which I concede.

“I am foolish enough to believe that the way things are need not be the way they must remain,” he said.

Cllr Hickman said he believed anyone could change things for the better and that any one individual could make a difference.

“I am foolish enough to believe that buying Fair Trade can change the world, so I am delighted that Skipton is a Fair Trade Town,” he said.

Cllr Hickman added he also believed that welcoming those who had fled war and tragedy made societies better, which was why he endorsed Skipton’s Town of Sanctuary status.

During his year in office he will support the Snaygill Project.

“I consider it a privilege to serve the town and promise to do the best of my ability. I will be available to all those who live in Skipton, irrespective of their political views, or none,” he added.

Last week’s meeting also set in place the make up of committees and sub-committees for the next 12 months, including the formation of two new committees - one to look after the market, and one devoted to events and tourism.

The new events and tourism committee will have Cllr Jonathan Kerr (Conservative) as its chairman, and will meet for the first time in July. The council also has a new events and tourism manager, Kerry Wheelwright.

Cllr Peter Madeley will be chairman of the other new committee, for markets, which will meet for the first time in August.

Cllr Eric Jaquin (Liberal Democrat) will be chairman of the Planning Committee, which in the future will be concerned only with major planning applications, or those of significance. The first meeting is due to take place tonight (Thursday) when amended plans for Aldersley Avenue will be on the agenda.

Chairman of finance and policy will be Cllr Chris Clark (Conservative); Cllr Gordon Bell (Independent) will be chairman of audit and scrutiny and Cllr John Dawson (Conservative) will be chairman of public services.

The council has also appointed a new estates manager, Joel Henderson, who replaces long standing manager, Les Chandler, who retired last month.

There are seven Conservative members on the council, two Labour members, one Liberal Democrat member, and six Independent members.

Tonight’s meeting of the Planning Committee - which can only make comments to the planning authority, Craven District Council, will discuss revised plans by Persimmon Homes to build 98 properties off Aldersley Avenue. The scheme was rejected by Craven Council earlier this year on a single issue - that of overlooking of properties on Moorview Way. The new scheme by Persimmon has replaced the formerly proposed two storey properties at the edge of the development with bungalows. The meeting will take place in the town hall offices of the town council at 6.30pm when residents will be welcome to make comments.