TOWN councillors in Pickering have given a lukewarm response to a plan to stage the annual national conference of market towns in Ryedale next year.

Originally planned to be only in Malton, the organisers of the event, run by Action for Market Owns, now known as Towns Alive, suggested that each of the district’s towns, Helmsley, Pickering, Malton, Kirkbymoorside and Norton should be involved in showing off their assets and potential.

Jan Devos, a project manager and consultant who is promoting the idea on behalf of Fitzwilliam Estates and Towns Alive, said: “I am passionate about developing our market towns, they have so much potential and appeal. The conference enables them to showcase themselves.”

But Councillor William Oxley questioned the potential of holding the conference in Ryedale, believing that the district’s towns were now building up their own business organisations. “I fail to understand what this will bring to Ryedale,” he said. Councillors heard that it was likely to cost about £10,000 to stage the conference.

They decided that Pickering should not be involved in the event, but voted to contribute £50 towards the production of bags for life encouraging the public to buy produce at their local markets, on condition that Ryedale’s other towns alsosupported the initiative.