Do not vote for this plan: 13th October 2010

Referring to the article in last week’s Gazette from Keith Knaggs, regrettably we are now seeing the results of his arrogant and divisive leadership..

As  leader of the Conservative Group, he held up the building of the joint use school dry sports centre for over ten years. Ten years ago, Malton School accepted a Ryedale officer proposal to include a new swimming pool in their proposal. An 80% grant would have been available from Sport England and a Feasibility Study was commissioned to be used in support of a bid for funding. Councillor Knaggs vigorously opposed the entire project – it was an opportunistic election issue, designed only to benefit his own political group.

He is now using the possible need to replace the Derwent Pool in five or more years time as an excuse to sell Wentworth Street Car Park to a superstore operator.

Since 1996, Keith Knaggs has been by far the most influential member of the Council. The Council was debt free and had extensive reserves. Yet for over ten years, the Council sat on its reserves and spent very little on capital projects.

The reserves came from the sale of Council houses – most of them in Malton/Norton or the part of York which used to be in Ryedale. The Ryedale part of York got its water theme park, and Pickering had had a dry sports centre built at Lady Lumley’s school. By comparison, Malton/Norton received little benefit out of the sale of their housing assets, and important public facilities such as the Milton Rooms and the Malton museum were allowed to deteriorate.

The Council could have dealt with all of these issues and many more at a time when money and “matching” grant aid was abundant, but Councillor Knaggs chose to let the council sit on its reserves and do very little with them. Now that funding from Yorkshire Forward and others has dried up, he looks to a supermarket operator to provide the money instead. He seeks to divide our Ryedale community and escape the blame for all of this, by supporting  those who he alleges say: “Enough of Malton: what about us?” and by branding anybody who disagrees with him as “a small vociferous minority”.

A prescription is no good if the side-effects are going to do more harm than the disease. We all want an extra slip-road for Brambling Fields, but not at the expense of making traffic worse in Malton and Norton town centres. Taking additional developer contributions from more new developments will not help either Malton/Norton or the wider community which use these centres, unless something radical is done to facilitate access between the A64 and Broughton Road.

As Councillor Knaggs is an accountant, we should not be surprised if planning has become finance led at Ryedale. The rule book has been torn up and thrown away. Norton and Malton are about to be inundated with new developments which are outside defined development and commercial limits without waiting for the completion of the Local Development Framework, as is the proper procedure. This is all being done in a rush to get developer contributions – even though the market is unlikely to make a start on building works worthwhile for quite some time.

The draft Ryedale Plan, which is now being consulted upon, supports this approach. It is therefore very important that as many readers as possible, when commenting on the plan, make it very clear that they don’t want any more supermarkets, and that no more than 1,000 new houses should be built in Malton/Norton over the next 15 years.

Readers can find full details of my views on the “Ryedale Plan” on my website


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