The Shopping Debate - Some Misconceptions  -  12th August 2009

As a supporter of the “I Love Malton” campaign, I am disturbed by the way this has been misrepresented and misunderstood in some quarters.


Nobody is suggesting that Malton should be preserved in aspic. However, Malton is not Monks Cross; it does not have the facilities of Monks Cross in regard to extensive free car parks, highway access or location on the fringe of a densely populated city. Even if all three intersections with the A64 were upgraded, the A64 could not cope with the volume of traffic generated by a centre like Monks Cross as well as by all the usual summer holiday traffic.


The argument is not about whether or not there should be change: the issue is how much change and what kind of change is required to revitalise Malton town centre.


The retail trade classifies itself into two broad divisions: the one selling “convenience” products, being basically food and other perishable  and consumable items. These are the goods normally included in our household weekly shop. My   experience is that all these goods are readily available in Malton now – either at Morrisons or in town centre shops, and it is not necessary to go to Monks Cross to find them.


The other division is the retailing of “comparison” goods – everything else, including clothes, shoes, electrical goods etc. These are goods where one might try several shops and compare several products or brands before buying what one wants. It is common ground that there is a huge shortage of shops in Malton which sell comparison goods. The question is how to attract new shops of this kind. That is the change which is required.


The main reason for the shortage of comparison stores is that the shops in Malton/Norton are constrained by conservation rules and are therefore not big enough to attract the national multiples. Bigger units are required, and that, as I understand, is why the Estate included seven large non-food units in their proposals for the redevelopment of the Cattle Market. Now, of course, due to the Recession, store chains selling comparison products are contracting, and are now even less likely to set up new stores in Malton.


The Council engaged two consultants to review the shopping needs of Ryedale. The findings of both are contradictory, but the figures used are identical and have been accepted by the Council. Both consultants accept that, on the basis of the figures, there is no room for a new supermarket in Malton in the short term, but that there is a massive capacity for new comparison stores, and this must, in my view, include replacements of stores like Curry’s or Woolons and Harwood.


Regrettably there are far too many people (including some council officers and members) who do not understand why Malton should not be like a little city, with all the facilities one might find in a big metropolis.  They take the view that, if comparison stores have stopped expanding, but supermarkets have not, then we should have more supermarkets – against all the advice of the Council’s own consultants. The real reason has nothing to do with the good of the town, its customers or of Ryedale’s residents – it’s all about making money out of the sale of Wentworth Street Car Park.


In order to reinforce their arguments they keep putting long stay car park fees up well above the limits which they know perfectly well most shoppers are prepared to pay in Malton – even though the Estate has made Market Place free.


They make a song and dance about the need for an upmarket supermarket like Waitrose or Sainsburys, and then, regardless, grant permission for a new Lidl store outside the town’s commercial limits, and agree to the extension of Morrisons, in spite of the inevitable traffic impact at Butcher Corner – due to be designated as an “air quality management area”.


One of the main attractions of Malton is its character as a historic country market town. This is something that a centre like Monks Cross just does not have. That is why it is so important that any change to Malton must enhance and build on the town’s character. This is a positive way forward. It is far better than the negative and destructive policy of catastrophic change advocated by the “I want more supermarkets” brigade.



Copy email sent to Councillors sent 17th  August 2009

You will have seen my article on the above in last week's Gazette. If not, I attach a copy for your information.


  In that article I referred to two consultants' reports, which advise against another supermarket. The first one is the RTP Report (September 2008). I have been through this very briefly with some members already, and would welcome the opportunity to go through it with you (if I have not done this already). It takes about 10 minutes, and you can call me on 01653 - 669023.

The second consultants' report referred to in my article is the WSP Report (January 2009). This may come as a surprise, as the contents of this report are actually being used to promote the concept of a new supermarket on Wentworth Street Car Park. This is not quite correct, as will be seen if you study the whole document and not just the summary.

The important page is Page 22 which is attached (Click here to view). Please refer to the section entitled "Revised Retail Capacity Figures". This relies on and refers to the same figures which were produced in the September 2008 RTP Report.   Half way down the second para. of this section you will find the words: "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".   By the short-term, WSP mean the period up until 2013.  

You will see that they go on to say that after 2013 there is sufficient capacity for a store of 29,000 sq. ft., but that if an existing store were to close in the meantime, supermarket proposals in Wentworth Street Car Park could be brought forward.   It has been public knowledge, since Sainsbury's surveyors were seen in Wentworth Street Car Park at the beginning of last year,  that Sainsbury's may have been actively pursuing this site. If so, perhaps the idea is that if Sainsbury's were to close the old Jacksons store, there would be room for them in Wentworth Street.

However, this option is no longer open to them for the following reason.   On May 12th this year, Ryedale granted planning permission for a Lidl store on the Robsons Garage Site (about 10,000 sq. shopping area) and for an extension of Morrisons by almost 8,000 sq. ft. net shopping area.   The Jacksons store is about 10,000 sq. ft. net shopping area, as I understand. It follows that any closure of Jacksons will be more than cancelled out by these two new developments.   On this basis it is no longer possible for the Council to rely on the WSP Report to justify the building of a new supermarket.



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