A MEETING to decide upon a controversial major development by petrol giant BP to build outlets for national chains over almost eight acres of grazing and arable land has been called off.

A day before Hambleton District Council’s planning committee was due to convene especially to consider the petrol station proposal beside the A19 on York Road, Thirsk, which includes premises for Costa coffee, McDonald’s and Marks & Spencer, a dedicated HGV overnight parking area and a 128-space car park, the authority announced it had been cancelled.

An authority spokesman said “a breakdown in the email systems in the Civic Centre” had meant it could not be certain that all requests to speak at planning committee had been received and rather than excluding anyone from speaking, the committee had been cancelled.

The decision came less than 24 hours after the council’s chief planning officer wrote to campaigners stating he would be recommending that committee deferred considering the application, which had been recommended for approval by officers. He wrote: “The reason for this is to wait for the response of the Secretary of State to your screening direction request for an environmental impact assessment.”

Thirsk Friends of the Earth and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England North Yorkshire said despite the scale of the scheme and the site lying near a designated Site of Importance for Nature Conservation and close to the setting of a conservation area the authority had rejected the need for such a study.

However, following concerns being raised over the environmental sensitivity of the area the campaign groups have appealed to Housing, Communities and Local Government minister Robert Jenrick, saying the assessment is crucial before a decision is made over the development, which it is claimed could create 106 full-time jobs and create £2.3m of economic activity annually. The campaign groups said a preliminary risk assessment had found the site lies on a highly vulnerable source of groundwater and that there was a risk of “leaching of contaminants of concern from soil into groundwater and subsequent migration in groundwater through the underlying aquifer towards surface water receptors”.

The appeal to the Secretary of State highlighted how the study concluded both water resource and future human health receptors were “potentially at risk from the use of the site as a petrol filling station”.