A town councillor has angered many people in Norton and Malton after he described some skatepark protestors as ‘riff-raff’.
Campaigners want to see the half pipe ramp – a major feature of the town’s skateboard park – preserved.
After a last minute cancellation of an extraordinary town council meeting last week they staged a protest last night (Monday).
Some of the town councillors say they are worried about health and safety issues which is why they voted to reject a sponsorship deal to preserve the feature.
It’s a row which has attracted media interest worldwide and many famous skateboarders have voiced support for the #rescuetheramp campaign too.
On his way into the meeting, town councillor Hugh Spencer, made reference to the heated debate on social media where there have been some comments which have hurt and worried some of his colleagues.
He told Ryan Swain, leading the fight to save the half pipe, to “call the riff-raff off Facebook”.
His wife, the Norton mayor Ann Spencer, has told YorkMix that she does not like the tone of some of the things that have been said online.
But then campaigners like Ryan have also had abuse too.
His “riff-raff” comment drew jeers from the protestors and he quickly hurried into the meeting.
One woman responded “The town is behind the half pipe. If they’re not behind it fine, then we don’t want them as councillors.”
The town council is actually divided on the issue with broadly half in support.
The half pipe is a ramp on which experienced skateboaders can show off their skills.
The town council has said that it does not want to close the park, which is leased from the Fitzwilliam Estate, but it has voted not to repair the biggest attraction, the half pipe.
Together with the rest of the park, on Norton Road near the railway station, it is currently closed off. As well as the Half Pipe, other ramps are in need of repair.
‘They’re letting us down’
Norton resident Sharon told us why she had joined the protest. “At the end of the day, there’s a lot of children here that rely on this skatepark.
“And without it all the teenagers are going to this other little park near my house, and they’re smashing it and breaking it.
“Now there’s more and more people moving into Malton and Norton and we need somewhere for the younger people to go otherwise it’s just going to be disruptive.”
Another protester said: “You see a council half of which does not care and they just have no political will to want to change things.
“And it was there on the table for them (sponsorship deal) So they’re letting down the community. And I hate to see that.”
Dinah Keal, Ryedale District Councillor and Norton Town Councillor (supporter of the Half Pipe) said the publicity the issue was attracting was starting to embarrass the council.
She condemend the “riff raff” comment saying on Twitter:
“Appalling comment from a town councillor who is supposed to represent this community. People have a right to publicly protest and the council needs to acknowledge the strength of feeling in Norton/Malton and LISTEN”
And she said that the council was becoming a little less divided on the issue with some councillors starting to have a change of mind.
“I can’t remember a protest outside Norton Town Council ever before so surely they have to take notice that this is community feeling this is what people want.
“We are answering all the the difficult questions about health and safety and insurance that have been raised.
“We have responses to all those those tricky issues, so let’s get the halfpipe open as soon as possible.”
YorkMix tried twice to engage with councillors who are against the Half Pipe but they just walked past making no comment.
Last week we interviewed the Mayor, Ann Spencer on YorkMix Radio (listen here) who gave us the reasons for cancelling the meeting which prompted this protest.