North Yorkshire’s county town should feature a heritage-related tourist attraction, despite its “lack of history”, it has been claimed.

While plans are developing to create a heritage centre displaying memorabilia and archives from Northallerton Prison at the former jail site, Hambleton District Council’s scrutiny committee heard support for a move to instead create a museum elsewhere in the town.

Members were told the district’s other market towns all benefited from their heritage, with links to Captain Cook, York, the Yorkshire Dales and James Herriot being cited.

Councillor Kevin Hardisty said: “Whilst we all love Northallerton we don’t actually have an awful lot of history. We have the fact the Bishop of Durham created a palace which is in now what was a cemetery and they established a grammar school in 1322 and even established a house of correction, but we don’t have a castle like Skipton, Helmsley or Pickering, but we do have a fantastic retail offer.”

Welcome to Yorkshire director David Shields told the committee while Northallerton would be well served by focusing on its array of independent retailers to draw visitors, “anything that can add to the overall visitor experience would be beneficial”.

The authority’s opposition leader, Councillor Claire Palmer, questioned whether plans for the heritage centre should be changed to allow for a museum in the town.

Members suggested Northallerton could follow Ripon in creating a museum using artefacts from its former prison.

Northallerton BID manager Julia Robinson said: “What we have found is there is no real increase in revenue when we are attracting coach parties. We are not translating footfall into spend on the High Street, so maybe we do need a visitor attraction to encourage visitors to spend more time on the High Street.”

She said a museum could be housed at the grade II listed 18th century Register House on Zetland Street.

Councillor David Hugill said the Battle of the Standard between the Scots and the English in 1138 had taken place near Northallerton and could be harnessed to draw history enthusiasts to the town.

As the meeting heard there was nothing to see at the battle site, it was suggested visitors could use mobile phone technology ‘augmented reality’ to create virtual images of historic scenes at the site.

After the meeting, Ian Ashton, chairman of Herriot Country Tourism Group, said: “While Thirsk benefits from having James Herriot and Thomas Lord 50 yards apart, the problem Northallerton has is there isn’t really anybody who they can hang a hat on.”