Kirkbymoorside’S out-going mayor has slammed the council and some residents over the way the controversial issue of the Old Library was tackled.

In her final address before stepping down from the town council on which she has served for several years, Coun Gaynor de Barr said: “No one should stand for public office if they are not prepared to take the rough with the smooth. Criticism comes with this territory.

“However, the manner in which much of that criticism has been delivered that, for many in the town, has been totally unacceptable.”

Her stinging remarks concern the furore prompted by the town council’s plan to spend £175,000 converting the Church Street building into an office and meeting room for the council and a community facility. It resulted in several heated meetings in Kirkbymoorside and claims that the town had been split by the debate.

Coun de Barr said: “Councillors and clerks listened to the concerns and outrage with dignity and professionalism, for which I thank and commend them. We responded by agreeing to put the project on hold.”

She told councillors and the public at the council’s annual meeting at Church House on Monday: “After the sound and the fury, what are we left with? No winners, that’s for certain. A split town, and, subsequent to a costly election, a split council.”

She said the council had previously worked collectively and co-operated until the Old Library closed.

“We embarked on a project designed to bring the community together, improve the facility and open an opportunity. But the shed door was opened, a grenade lobbed in and we were left to sort out the aftermath of a whipped-up frenzy of misinformation.”

After a public consultation, there had been “an overwhelming view” that the Old Library must be retained for the town.

The latest position, that a future role may emerge after the production of a planning blueprint for Kirkbymoorside, would take up to two years, and Coun de Barr warned that the council, she believed, was in breach of contract over the scheme.

“Never in my long experience, have I encountered professional advice from a number of sources being argued and disagreed with.

“The effective town council of tomorrow must be outward-looking, recognising the part it can play in a bigger picture.”

In the past year, the council has seen four of its 10 members resign, together with the town clerk.

Coun de Barr told the meeting: “Treat volunteers and employees with aggression, disrespect, personal vindictiveness, bad language, bullying and intimidating behaviour and you will guarantee that not only will they take their skills, professionalism and time elsewhere, but others will be utterly disillusioned about becoming involved.”

She wished the new council, which is still one member short of its full complement, well for the future.

No one at the meeting responded to Coun de Barr’s comments but speaking afterwards the new mayor, Coun Chris Dowie, said she was anxious to see the council make “a new positive start”.

Coun Dowie, a former headteacher, said: “I want to put the past behind us and see the council working together and with the residents of Kirkbymoorside.”