A RESIDENT has sent a formal complaint to North Yorkshire Council over the handling of a planning application for a new petrol station off the A65/A59 roundabout in Skipton.

Councillors on the now-abolished Craven District Council refused the application by Brookfield Property Holdings Ltd in October 2022 but the decision was overturned on appeal by a government planning inspector in August this year.

The petrol station will be built on Gargrave Road, on the other side of the road from Keelham Farm Shop, and will also include a shop, car wash, EV charging points and a new mini roundabout.

Karen Darvell, chair of Stirton with Thorlby Parish Council, campaigned against it being built and has now submitted a complaint to North Yorkshire Council.

According to her own research, the planning officer who originally recommended councillors approve the plans in 2022 was formerly employed as a senior planner by a petrol station operator. However, her employment was unrelated to the Skipton application.

The officer had also founded a planning consultancy that says on its website that its focus is on winning planning permission for petrol filling stations.

While there is no suggestion that the officer had any prior relationship with Brookfield Property Holdings regarding the plans, Ms Darvell believes their professional background was not declared as a potential conflict of interest.

Her complaint also refers to officers changing the wording in the minutes of three reasons for refusal given by councillors at the October 2022 planning committee. She said the fourth reason related to the retail kiosk was not amended despite being invalid for technical reasons.

Ms Darvell previously made a complaint to Craven District Council about its handling of the application.

In December 2022, the council’s planning improvement lead upheld her complaint and found that there were “serious deficiencies” in the original report. It ordered the council’s planning officers to undertake training.

Ms Darvell told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “It’s important the local authority’s officers whose work represents the local community are held to account for their conduct in public office at all times.

“If not disclosing an apparent conflict of interest, completely changing half the reasons the planning committee members vote to pass or approve a planning application and leaving a technically unsound reason unchanged is acceptable to the council then I suspect something fundamentally needs to change.”

North Yorkshire Council’s assistant director for planning, Trevor Watson, said: “Following a hearing, an independent planning inspector concluded that the application should be approved.

“We are confident that the planning process was followed fully when the original decision was taken by former Craven district councillors last year.”