RYEDALE District Council's decision to admit just 30 members of the public into a meeting - when up to 100 more were left outside - has prompted criticism from councillors.

The 'extra-ordinary' meeting of council was being held at Ryedale House in Old Malton at 6.30pm last night.

There was just one item on the agenda - a discussion about whether or not to employ specialist consultants to help the authority reject, limit or amend future fracking planning applications.

The meeting, which had been prompted following the council's rejection of the same discussion last month, drew significant crowds, including anti-fracking protestors and representatives of 'Ryedale Against Anti-Social Protestors' (RAAP).

Ryedale District Council had published a note earlier in the week saying that attendance would be limited to 30 - despite calls from some members to allow more or even to change venue, both of which have been done in the past.

Staff from security firm Constant Security were stationed at the doors.

When the time came for admittance of the public, the 30 were chosen through a lottery-style system.

Cllr Lindsay Burr questioned the decision and said: "We should have been consulted - this meeting should have been moved to the Milton Rooms."

Cllr Di Keal added: "I can't see why we couldn't do that. We're hiding behind health and safety. It appals me. It breaks every rule of accountability and transparency."

And Cllr Paul Andrews said: "I've been working with this council since 1988 and I've never known members of the public to be excluded."

But chair of the council Cllr William Oxley defended the decision. He said: "This is a meeting of the council to which the public is invited - it is not a public meeting.

"The decision was taken after consulting with a number of partners to ensure health and safety.

"The actions at the last meeting made it necessary," he added, referring to a brief occupation of a December meeting by demonstrators.

For more reaction see the Gazette & Herald on Wednesday.