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The Press | Posted 31st May 2016

Police called amid talk of assaults and a lock-in

Villages are at loggerheads over the future of housebuilding around their homes, after a meeting descended into chaos and led to police being called.

Some residents in Earswick are fighting to block houses from being built in the greenbelt around the village, and they took their campaign to the annual parish meeting, resulting in a row that ended with police officers being called out.

Video footage of the meeting shows local resident Jacky Ridley trying to put a question to the annual parish meeting – something she had checked would be allowed under local government law – and later going on to ask for the whole village to be given a ballot on whether any greenbelt development should be included in Earswick’s neighbourhood plan.

The video shows the person filming the meeting being told to stop and refusing to do so, someone trying to block the lens, and shows parish councillors then walking out and saying they would lock the doors.

Mrs Ridley had asked for that part of the meeting to be filmed, which she believes is permitted under a law change made two year ago which allows any public meeting of a local government body to be filmed without the needing for specific permission.

But parish council chairman Derek Jones is seen on the footage telling Mrs Ridley’s husband Robert to stop filming, and closing the meeting.

Other villagers can be seen trying to stop the filming, while retired village resident Allan Charlesworth reads out local government legislation rules for annual parish meeting, which differ from parish council meetings.

Eventually the parish councillors can be seen leaving the hall, warning they will lock those left in the hall, and calling the police.

Mr Charlesworth, who then took over chairing the meeting, has written to the city council asking for the ballot to be conducted – which he says the council has to conduct by law after it was demanded at the annual parish meeting.

But the parish council itself says the meeting was not legitimate, and the way forward is now unclear. The city council’s monitoring officer is investigating complaints about some parish councillors’ behaviour, and looking into the calls for a village ballot.

In a written statement, parish councillors said the meeting, held on Monday, May 23 was disrupted by “a small minority of residents”, and said Mr Jones was right to try to stop the filming and close the meeting, which they said was done as a matter of public safety. The meeting afterwards was, they say, “a private meeting” which had no legal standing – meaning the calls for the ballot are invalid.

They have also said the parish council’s own standing orders require prior warning of filming, something that was not given, which is why filming was not permitted on Monday.