There is no urgent need to sell Wentworth Street Car Park : 14 July 2010

On 9th December 2008 Ryedale’s Chief Executive wrote to James Stephenson promising that the Malton Town Strategy (which includes the future of Wentworth Street Car Park) would be dealt with through the local plan (now called LDF) process. Last month the Council broke this promise. Why?


Over the last two years, we have had numerous consultants’ reports. These have been characterised by questionable assumptions, bald statements unsupported by evidence, faulty logic and inconsistencies and contradictions within and between reports. The last one was the Jacobs “Strategic Transport Assessment” with its ridiculous list of “sites likely to be developed first” (compiled by Ryedale – not by Jacobs) and the absurd conclusion that what the Council wants would not create unacceptable traffic congestion. Even so, it is clear from the reports that there is no room for a new supermarket in Malton now, and that if there was, Wentworth Street is not the best site.


So it looks as though the Council have decided to deliberately bypass the local plan, because they know perfectly well they will lose if they stick with it.


So now they are trying something different. They are advising members to separate land ownership from planning issues with “Chinese walls”. Now the trouble with “Chinese walls” is that they are “paper thin”. It is anyway impossible to separate the two, as there will always be some overlap between planning and land ownership issues. For example, the use of land which is permitted by a seller is a land ownership issue which can be controlled by the seller with legal restrictive covenants, and is also a planning issue which can be controlled by the planning authority by planning conditions.  Unfortunately, the Council has no absolute control over planning conditions as it does over covenants, as planning conditions can be lifted and appealed against.


So, for example, the Council is suggesting that they can use planning conditions to require the purchaser to make their store’s car park available for farmers’ agricultural vehicles on market days. This simply will not work, because there will be health and safety issues and the planning condition will be open to an application to have it lifted and an appeal against refusal to lift it. Without this facility, Malton Livestock Market will most likely have to close.


So why won’t the Council use legal covenants to require parking facilities for the Livestock Market? The reason is simple: if they do, they will have to comply with a complex EU procurement process, which will be even slower than the snail’s pace of the Council’s local plan (LDF). They know perfectly well that, by the time the EU process is complete, there will be a decision on the LDF which will most likely invalidate any decision to sell the car park.


This is the reason for the Council’s indecent haste. Ryedale is currently a debt-free council and there is no immediate need to capitalise any of its assets. In carrying on as they are, Ryedale have shown a reckless indifference to the viability and vitality of Malton and Norton Town Centres and the requirements of Ryedale’s agricultural and business communities. They are not at all bothered by the impact their plans will inevitably have on the amenities of residents, particularly in terms of increased traffic congestion. It is utterly outrageous.


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