Malton/Norton's Commercial Limits are Important : 1st January 2011


There is a dangerous rumour going round at the moment. This is that, if a new supermarket is not built on Wentworth Street Car Park, another site will be developed for exactly the same purpose, perhaps on the Show Field. This, it is argued, would have a far greater negative impact on Malton Town Centre, and so it would be advisable to accept the redevelopment of Wentworth Street Car Park as the best of two possible bad choices. This argument is false, because both Wentworth Street Car Park and the Showfield are outside Malton’s defined commercial limits, and the Council doesn’t have to give planning permission on either site.


Just as the existing local plan has development limits to define the areas of towns and villages which are available for new residential limits, so the towns of Malton and Norton also have “commercial limits” to define the areas of these towns which are available for new retail development. Any retail proposals outside these limits can be refused planning permission because they would be contrary to policy.


It has been suggested that these commercial limits are obsolete because they are contained in an old plan. However, government advice has stated categorically that the commercial limits specified in an old local plan are saved until a new local development framework is adopted. So, however old these limits may be, it is national government policy to retain them until they are changed after full public consultation through the local plans process.


This makes sense because both new and existing businesses need to be able to plan for the future, and they cannot do so unless they know what the Council’s policies are in regard to retail and can be reasonably sure the Council is going to enforce them. If they have no confidence, they will either close or move, or in the case of new businesses, not set up in Malton or Norton. So if Ryedale is really bothered about the number of empty shops in Malton/Norton, the best thing they can do is to ensure that the town commercial limits are upheld and enforced – oh if only pigs could fly!


There is no national policy requirement for Councils to keep a five year supply of land for new retail as there is a requirement to keep a five years supply of land for new residential development. However, Councils are expected to ensure that there is an adequate provision of retail shopping space. Retail shops come in two categories: “convenience” and “comparison”. “Convenience” goods include food, cleaning materials etc. which one would buy in one’s weekly shop. They are the goods usually sold in supermarkets. “Comparison” goods comprise everything else, including furniture,clothes and electricals.


 It is common ground that there is an underprovision of shops selling “comparison” goods in Ryedale. However in December 2009, retail consultants advised Ryedale, on the basis of somewhat dubious and highly optimistic assumptions, that the net requirement for new shops selling “convenience” goods in the next ten years is 417 sq.m. for 2008/13; 2,164 sq.m for 2008/2021 and 2,801 sq.m for 2008/2026.  It’s obvious that the square meterage requirement will not be 417 sq.m on 31st December 2013, and then suddenly 2,164 sq.m the next day on 1st January 2014. Clearly the 2,164 sq.m relates to the end and not the start of the period 2013/2021.


It follows that even on the basis of these figures, at present and for the next ten years at least there can be little  planning justification for a large new supermarket on either the Showfield or Wentworth Street Car Park. Any suggestion that the town has to accept one or the other now is simply scaremongering.



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