Church Fenton councillor tells of moment he was assaulted in planning row

  • Report by Helen Steel

A parish councillor assaulted by a businessman in a planning row has told ITV News: "Disputes are usually settled with a bottle of wine not violence".

Andrew Mason, the chairman of Church Fenton Parish Council, was attacked as he lay in front of a cherry picker in an attempt to protect nesting birds in the village of Church Fenton, North Yorkshire.

Mr Mason said: "To say I was in a state of shock was an understatement. I thought, oh my god, who behaves like that? [I was] literally in a state of shock.

"I thought how could that happen? How would somebody do something like that?

"The last time I was in a fight... I was six."

The incident happened after Chris Makin, the boss of Leeds East Airport, successfully applied for permission for trees to be cut back to make way for aircraft.

Mr Mason, 63, objected to the move, arguing birds nesting in the trees should not be disturbed.

He was walking to work at Church Fenton community shop on 4 April 2023 when a cherry picker moved in to begin the work.

He said: "Contrary to what people say I'm not brave, let's get that straight. So I walked underneath the cherry picker."

In scenes caught on camera, Mr Mason can be seen in front of the cherry picker as Makin, 65, tries to drag him out of the way by his clothes and hair.

Mr Mason outside Harrogate Magistrates Court Credit: PA

Michael Smith, prosecuting, told Harrogate Magistrates Court: "The defendant scooped Mr Mason's hair into his hands and tried to pull him across the road by his hair."

In the video, Mr Mason is seen lying on the floor and can be heard shouting "get off me" and "the police are on their way, you lunatic" as well as calling Making an "ignorant bully" as the defendant swears at him.

In a victim statement read to the court, Mr Mason said that, at that point, he thought "my life is in peril".

He expressed dismay that he "could be viciously attacked in broad daylight in the village I love and where I have brought up my children".

Richard Wright KC, defending, said his client had "learned a salutary lesson" and told the court he had made a "massive contribution to the GDP of the UK".

Mr Wright said Makin was "used to getting on with things and getting a job done in the public interest".

"He wanted to get this job done but went about it the wrong way," he added.

Makin, from Micklefield in North Yorkshire, was fined £4,800 for assault by beating.

Defendant Chris Makin (left) leaves Harrogate Magistrates Court in North Yorkshire Credit: PA

Mr Mason, who has been a councillor for 14 years, said it has not put him off standing up for what he believes is right.

He said: "We get involved in all sorts but it's what you call neighbours disputes - but we live in a lovely little village, it's normally resolved with a bottle of wine - not the level of violence I was subjected to last year."

Speaking after the court case, Makin admitted the incident was regrettable, but that he had permission to cut back the trees.

He has now lodged an appeal.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.