Ryedale's Proposals for Part-pedestrianisation of Market Place, Malton - a Colossal Waste of Public Money - 9th September 2009

Councillor John Clark in last week's Ryedale presented an interesting insight into how Ryedale has tried to cover up some alleged anomalies in its accounting for the use of public money. These pale into insignificance against the Council's  inane proposals for enhancing Malton's Town Centre, the estimate of the total cost being in excess of £2M, of which more than 10% is consultancy fees.   


Everybody will accept the need to improve Malton's street scene and make it more attractive to investors, businesses and shoppers. One can, therefore, generally accept in principle, proposals put forward for enhancing Railway Street, Wheelgate and Yorkersgate.


However, the proposals for the Market Place Area are far from sensible. Instead of confining themselves to building on and enhancing what is already there, the administration has embarked on yet another brave, new and exciting city-style experiment in catastrophic change.


We are told   that the purposes of these proposals include relieving traffic issues at Butchers' Corner, improving traffic circulation and making Malton more attractive to businesses, shoppers and visitors. So, how are they going to do this?


Firstly, only three options are to be considered, all of them preventing cars from driving round Market Place. Two options would close off the top end as a pedestrian precinct, and the other, the bottom end.  The retention of the existing circulation is not an option. Traffic flow through Market Place is to be one way from Wheelgate or Newbiggin to Yorkersgate.


Secondly, the number of Town Centre car park spaces is reduced by at least one third. All of the lost spaces are, of course, free spaces.


Now you don’t have to be a genius or a highly qualified and well paid consultant to see how this is going to work: as the main access to Market Place will be from Finkle Street, there will be congestion at its entrance from Wheelgate. As there will be less  free parking spaces many vehicles will then have to do either a right hand turn or a left hand turn into Yorkersgate, before they can circulate, either right through Cattle Market, or left via Butchers’ Corner, thus making worse all the traffic issues which already occur at Butchers’ Corner and the new traffic lights at Newbiggin.


It has been suggested that this will not matter because there is “oceans of space” at Wentworth Street Car Park, but that won’t work because the Council will not reduce its extortionate car park fees. Faced with all these issues, what will the public do? They’ll go and shop elsewhere.


So, the scheme will have achieved the very opposite of what is intended. Butchers’ Corner will be worse, and a huge sum of public money will have been wasted in driving customers and business away from Malton.


And now the cover up. Instead of having a full debate in public, the discussion takes place at a “Members’ Briefing”, which neither the press nor the public are allowed to attend. In theory no decisions are made at these meetings, but members are nevertheless invited to give officers a “steer”. In this instance, Town Council and local County Council members were also invited. Although members were not asked to make a decision, we were asked how we wanted to deal with the proposed enhancements, and fortunately, it was agreed to proceed in two stages, the Market Place proposals being deferred as a second phase, subject to further consultation. So, in effect, the real approval for the first phase was given behind closed doors on Tuesday night 1st September, subject only to formal committee and council ratification.


It should be no surprise that some of the Councillors who were keenest on the immediate implementation of the crazy Market Place scheme are amongst those who have, in the past, been most enthusiastic on increasing the Council’s extortionate car park charges. They are very senior members and the discussion could easily have gone their way. If so, neither the press nor the public would have witnessed the debate or known who to blame for this outrageous proposal for such a colossal waste of public money.


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