Tories should support Local Business - 22nd April 2009

During the 23 years I worked in Local Government, Conservative Council Groups all over the country would do their best for all the people within their district, and they would take a special interest in the farming community and local business. Regrettably this does not apply to the Conservative Group in Ryedale, which if it has never had outright political control, has nevertheless dominated Ryedale since 1997.


In 2005 Ryedale put its car park charges up by 25%, against protests from local business. As a consequence of that protest, there was a trial of lower fees at Wentworth Street Car Park in Malton. The extortionate fees were reimposed at the end of the trial, before the trial had even been evaluated, in spite of the fact that fee income from Wentworth Street had actually increased, and that there was evidence of increased use.


As a consequence of the Council’s repeated assertions that car park fees had no impact on local business, the FitzWilliam Estate decided to take back the lease of Market Place from the Council and to make parking there free for two hours as from 15th May. They clearly know better than the Council what is in the commercial interest of their town centre shops.


Last year, the Council’s leaders decided to make Wentworth Street Car Park available for redevelopment by a superstore. Sainsbury’s surveyors were seen there early last year –  presumably they had the Council’s agreement – and shortly afterwards a consultants’ report was presented recommending this. This report contained no data, calculations or tables to justify their conclusions, but relied heavily on the under use for car parking, without considering whether or not the fees charged were reasonable.


Following public opposition, the Estate, the Auctioneers and local business put together a “Revitalisation Plan”, which included the redevelopment of the Cattle Market area, the relocation of the Cattle Market itself, a new motorway intersection between the A64 and Broughton Road, and “enabling development”. Instead of working with local business, the Council’s policy committee was presented this month with a revised report, repeating all the Council’s previous proposals, including a recommendation to redevelop Wentworth Street Car Park as a superstore. It came with a copy of a CD containing  the actual consultants’ revised report, but members’ attention was not drawn to the paragraph which said: “The implication of these figures is that there is not enough retail capacity in the short term to support a supermarket on Wentworth Street Car Park.......”


The Council’s Conservative leader and its Chief Executive told a meeting of Malton Town Council that the proposed superstore would be the “first phase” of their plan. This is despite the need of Wentworth Street Car Park for farmers on market days. We know the Cattle Market is likely to close if this facility is denied to them. So the interests of Ryedale’s farming community is being prejudiced by a Conservative led council which is only interested in realising an asset.


This is not surprising, bearing in mind how it took Ryedale over five years to come round to supporting farmers against the Environment Agency’s plans to allow the Vale of Pickering to flood.


The trouble is that there seem to be far too many members and officers in the Council who come from a city background and do not understand how rural communities work. A political group in a rural area which does not work with local business and does not support the farming community has lost the right to call itself “Conservative” – it is something else.


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