Time for Ryedale District Council to call it a day says FME
Roddy Bushell, Estate Manage of the Fitzwilliam Malton Estate, has made a final plea for Ryedale District Council to see reason in the continuing saga of Wentworth Street Car Park.
“Sooner or later, Ryedale District Council will cut its losses and stop trying to develop a superstore on the Wentworth Street car park,” he writes in the Mercury. “The Planning Inspectorate has made clear that a superstore should not be built on that site. The question is whether the Council decides to stop trying now or whether it continues to spend public money battling to achieve the impossible and the undesirable.”
The letter goes on. “In a nutshell, this is the Ryedale District Councillors’ predicament. It is a simple choice with an obvious right decision and an obvious wrong decision. It might seem complicated: the legal struggles in court have indeed been frustrating, complex and expensive. The planning system is, indeed, highly regulated. But the issue at stake here is simple.
At the heart of the dispute is a conflict of interests. The council has a commercial interest in developing the Wentworth Street car park, because it owns it. Selling the site to a developer could net the council millions of pounds. But the council also, as the local planning authority, has a duty to refuse development proposals which are not in accordance with planning policy and detrimental to the local community.
In this case, the plans also clearly clashed with the public interest. We know that Malton residents, consulted during the Neighbourhood Plan process, oppose the development four-to-one – that’s 80% of residents in opposition, to put it another way. The response to the public consultation on the superstore proposals was a horror story for the developer. Malton residents‘ views chime exactly with present planning policies which are intended to result in good outcomes for a community. Twice tested, this site has failed to demonstrate that it accords with policy or would be good for the local community.
When faced with the obvious conflict of interests – between the council’s financial interest and the public interest – the council appeared to put its own financial interest first. They resolved to give planning permission to construct a superstore that the people of Malton had made clear that they did not want and did not need.
The Council’s resolution, to give their own site consent, was found wanting when Fitzwilliam Malton Estate appealed to the national Planning Inspectorate against the refusal to redevelop the Livestock Market. Two planning decisions made by RDC were reversed in a single appeal decision. But the council refused to accept the Inspector’s locally popular decision and granted consent for the superstore at a second attempt. The High Court has now quashed that consent as unlawful. The council has racked up legal and administrative bills that push the total cost, to the taxpayer, of this fruitless unpopular struggle into many tens of thousands of pounds.
Having lost the court case in July, and in spite of overwhelming local opposition, the council even now has not confirmed that it has dropped its ambition to see a superstore built. Therefore the threat of renewal of the sale contract to the council’s developer and a fresh planning application looms over the town. And while it looms, other commercial developments that would help vitalise the town centre are put on ice, because the superstore threatens to draw away their customers.
At the expense of people of Malton and Ryedale, the District Council has tried and failed to impose upon Malton what its residents never wanted in the first place. This is a relief, but a lot has been wasted to arrive at this point. In our view, the council now needs to call time on this project. If it is willing to do so, we would be more than happy to continue discussing the future of the Wentworth Street car park with the council. We look forward to participating in creating a locally popular plan for this important part of our town.
There are more than the beginnings of something special happening in Malton & Norton. The towns have a renewed buzz about them, from the Talbot Hotel, the free parking, the growing reputation as Yorkshire’s Food Capital with innovative new producers and breweries to the new festivals, events and markets. These are being achieved with the Malton and Norton Town Councils, the Chamber of Trade, the Area Partnership, local businesses, Fitzwilliam Malton Estate and a host of volunteers working together. Ryedale District Council have been noticeably absent. How much more could we achieve with their help and encouragement? This is the moment to put the past behind us and move on to realise the full potential of this community.”
These are arguments that all who care for Malton will agree with. Can we hope that Ryedale District Council will see sense?
A victory for Malton: the full judgement
You can download the full judgement here. You may have seen Ryedale District Council’s statement following the judgement which sought to suggest that planning law was somehow debatable by drawing comfort from the remarks of an earlier judge, Mr Justice Gilbart. The district council’s statement omits any reference to the fact that when the Court of Appeal considered this judgement they overturned the decision of Mr Justice Gilbart, saying not only that FME’s five grounds of appeal were all arguable but that two of them seemed to have particular merit. In the end the High Court found in FME’s favour on 4 of the 5 grounds of appeal, drawing particular attention to the fact that the planning committee was seriously misled by the planning officer’s report. There is a lot of detailed planning law in this document but it is well worth the read.
A victory for Malton
Plans for the superstore on the Wentworth Street Car Park are once again in disarray. A judge in the High Court has overruled the planning permission granted by Ryedale District Council (RDC), finding in favour of the arguments made by the Fitzwilliam Malton Estate (FME), supported by many from the Malton community, who have argued repeatedly that a superstore close to the edge of the town centre would irreparably damage the town and its businesses.
Mr Justice Dove, the judge who heard the case in the Leeds Planning Court, is highly critical of the planning officer’s report to the planning committee which, he said “did mislead members and misled them significantly…”. He goes on to say that the officer’s summation of aspects of the Planning Inspector’s conclusion (with respect to the competing Livestock Market Site) was “… not merely a gross over simplification but fundamentally misrepresented the Inspector’s decision”.
Lawyers for FME had argued five grounds on which the planning consent granted by RDC should be deemed unlawful. The judge found in favour of FME on four of those grounds – just one would have been sufficient for the planning consent to be quashed. The court order quashing the planning permission also provides for all FME’s costs in the matter to be recovered from RDC, subject to assessment by the Court.
Roddy Bushell, Estate Manager for FME commented: “The outcome of this case is tremendous news for Malton. It has been a long fight, but finally this shadow over the town is lifting”. However, Mr Bushell was strongly critical of the role played by RDC in the abortive plans for a giant store, wholly out of step with the needs or interests of the people of Malton. “This decision is not an isolated, unfortunate incident that can be brushed under the carpet and written off to experience. This has been a long campaign by RDC, driven by self-interest, pursued over almost a decade. This has wasted a phenomenal amount of money that should have been invested in this community. I hope the electorate will demand an inquiry into how this was allowed to happen.”
Mr Bushell added a call for RDC to signal that they accept that Wentworth Street Car Park is the wrong location for a superstore. “Councillors should do this by deciding at their next council meeting that the agreement with their developers, GMI Holbeck, is not to be renewed or extended. Furthermore I understand that GMI are seeking leave to appeal this decision. I urge RDC to think carefully before supporting them further in that escapade.”
An independent review into the legality of Ryedale Council’s Wentworth Street Car Park Decision will be held
A recent ruling of the Court of Appeal in favour of the Fitzwilliam Malton Estate means that there will be a judicial review of Ryedale District Council’s controversial granting of planning permission for a superstore to be built on Malton’s Wentworth Street car park.
The ruling overturns an earlier decision by the Planning Court to refuse permission for a judicial review. The review will be heard in the High Court in Leeds and is expected to take place before the end of July 2015.
Whilst the Livestock Market site has planning permission it is in effect blighted by the Wentworth Street superstore proposal. Roddy Bushell, estate manager for Malton Estate, commented: “This is the only opportunity for independent review of Ryedale’s ‘decision making process’ and that it will now go ahead will be widely welcomed in Malton. It also provides Ryedale councillors with a good reason not to extend the time-limited sale contract with the car park’s developers, due to expire shortly. The scheme is almost certainly a non-starter anyway in the changed market conditions. So it would be to everyone’s advantage to bring this damaging and costly property deal to an end.”
The order, from Lord Justice Sullivan, accepted that all five separate grounds, cited by the Estate, “are properly arguable”. The judgement goes on to say that, in particular, it is arguable that the Planning Officer’s advice to the Committee, in connection with the Inspector’s reasoning for the grant of planning consent on appeal, is not a fair reflection of the Inspector’s decision read as a whole. It continues: “It is also arguable that the Officer’s report does not engage with the Inspector’s acceptance of the assessment that the Livestock Market redevelopment proposal should be treated as contributing to town centre turnover, having an overall positive impact”.
Booths Show Continue Confidence in Malton
Family-owned food store chain Booths has emphasised its interest in investing in a new store on Malton’s Livestock Market Site by extending an agreement with Fitzwilliam Malton Estate for another year.
This follows the recent news that the Estate has applied to the Court of Appeal about the Planning Court’s decision to refuse permission for a judicial review of Ryedale District Council’s decision-making process over Wentworth Street Car Park. RDC granted permission for a large 40,000 sq ft superstore at the car park for a developer, GMI Holbeck.
Roddy Bushell, estate manager, said: “The extension of the period for exclusive negotiations shows the renewed confidence both Booths and the Malton Estate have in this development and in Malton.
“Since the original exclusivity agreement with Booths last year, the parties have almost completed the design of a store to Booths’ specification. The decision by RDC last April to give planning consent for a superstore on Wentworth Street Car Park was a blow to those plans because of the uncertainty it created for the potential investors in the Livestock Market Site development. The months since then have seen news from the superstore industry that makes it look increasingly unlikely that one of the big four supermarkets will want to build a large store on Wentworth Street Car Park. The main target for that site – Tesco – has shelved plans to build 49 ‘very large’ stores, and is looking to close 43 unprofitable stores nationwide.
“If the superstore on Wentworth Street Car Park does not go ahead, the Booths store can be constructed on the Livestock Market Site close to the centre of Malton and there will be a car park for 170 cars and three other large format retail units.”
Fitzwilliam Malton Estate Approaches Court of Appeal over Wentworth Street Car Park Development.
Fitzwilliam Malton Estate has confirmed that it has asked the Court of Appeal if it will review the Planning Court’s decision to refuse permission for a judicial review of Ryedale District Council’s decision-making process when they granted consent for a superstore on Wentworth Street car park.
Roddy Bushell, Estate Manager, said: “For a decision that is so crucial for the future of the town, we do hope the Court of Appeal will agree that it is reasonable to have one opportunity for an independent review of the process followed to reach that decision. Especially when the last time RDC gave consent for a superstore on Wentworth Street car park, an independent inspector reviewed that decision and said it was contrary to good planning policy. With that history, an independent review is even more necessary given that RDC is both planning authority and site owner and will reap £5m from the sale of the site.
“This is important to Fitzwilliam Malton Estate and for the future economic health of Malton and Norton because, by granting this consent on Wentworth Street car park, RDC has created a great deal of uncertainty. Even though it seems unlikely that a supermarket chain will be interested in developing at Wentworth Street, the knowledge that there is a planning consent there creates doubt and loss of confidence for potential investors in the already consented livestock market site, including the Estate and Booths.
“A review by an independent body such as the Planning Court or the Court of Appeal could resolve this matter once and for all so that the town can move forward.”
Ryedale has been named among the best places to live in Yorkshire, according to a new survey.
Nine areas from the region are included in the 2014 Quality of Life survey by the Halifax which lists the top 250 locations in Britain.
The running order included Hambleton as number one in Yorkshire (50th overall) and Ryedale being the fifth best place (81st overall). Other locations included the East Riding, York, Craven and Scarborough.
The Halifax assesses everything form health, life expectancy and pay to crime rates and internet access.
Wentworth Street car park: Legal advice sought after judicial review is thrown out.
The Fitzwilliam Malton Estate has said it is continuing to take legal advice after calls for a Judicial Review on the decision to grant planning permission for a supermarket on Wentworth Street car park in Malton were rejected.
In September, the Department for Communities and Local Government wrote to Ryedale District Council confirming it would not be calling in the application, so the council’s decision to approve it, made in April 2014, still stood.
The Estate subsequently decided to seek a review through the Planning Court, however, this has now been rejected.
Estate manager Roddy Bushell said: “Naturally we are disappointed by the judge’s findings, which have lawyers scratching their heads in disbelief. We are taking legal advice and further remedies may be available to obtain an essential independent review of a deeply-flawed and perverse planning decision.”
Mr Bushell added: “Meantime, the cold reality of the market has clearly shown that the planning reports on which the council is still relying are simply wrong. With Tesco and other major chains in full retreat, selling their sites rather than building big stores, the notion that Malton has capacity for another store, its largest-ever, seems very unlikely.”
He said: “But worse, the uncertainty could go on for years and prevent Booths from going ahead with its foodstore at the livestock market site. The certain benefits of that £15m investment will be lost, as will the prospect of other investors and businesses following and helping Malton flourish.”
Emma Brooksbank, from MASS (Malton Against SuperStore), said that leading up to April’s planning meeting, 4,000 people signed the petition “Say NO to a Superstore”.
“There is very widespread support in Malton for the Estate’s plan to finance a small foodstore on the livestock market site, to be operated by Booths. This project is jeopardised by the planning consent the district council gave itself in April,” she said.
“The leader of the Conservative group and the Conservative councillors on the planning committee ignored evidence that Tesco would not be coming to Wentworth Street. The council and those who elect them must choose between a development on the live-stock market site that can proceed and Wentworth Street project, which can’t.”
Fitzwilliam Estate applies for Judicial Review over Ryedale District Council’s Wentworth Street Car Park Planning Decision.
Fitzwilliam Malton Estate has issued a claim seeking permission to initiate a judicial review of Ryedale District Council’s decision to grant planning permission for the construction of a superstore on Wentworth Street Car Park in Malton. It is the latest twist in a long running saga which has seen the District Council grant itself planning permission twice for land it owns. The decision to seek judicial review will be welcome news to the thousands of local people who opposed the district council’s plans.
The question will be asked of the Planning Court, which deals with all judicial reviews and statutory challenges involving planning matters including appeals and applications relating to planning permissions.
In a press statement Roddy Bushell, Estate Manager of Fitzwilliam Malton Estate, said: “A judicial review is the only way Malton Estate can show that the Councillors’ decision was taken on what I believe to be inadequate and wrong advice and it is therefore an unlawful decision which should not stand.
“This matter is of great concern to Malton as the flawed planning consent for a speculative development is creating uncertainty, which in turn is preventing real investment in the town. The Estate and Booths are prepared to invest around £15m in the town centre livestock market site. However, this will not proceed while there is this uncertainty hanging over the future of a possible new superstore nearby.” Mr Bushell continued: “Of course there is a quick resolution available. RDC should take independent legal advice that will tell them that this is a mirror image of what happened after the last time they tried to give consent on this site; when on appeal, they accepted their decision was flawed and they had to pay the Estate’s legal fees. The same result is likely again, and yet RDC could accept it, without a court judge having to tell them, so the town can move on. “Indeed, it is irresponsible if RDC do not accept their decision is flawed. They are the stewards of the local economy and it goes against every test of public opinion for them to continue to prevent investment in the town in favour of a speculative development, of their own site, that looks as though it will never happen now that Tesco plc has run out of funds to develop new stores.
“If the Planning Court agrees that there is good cause to review the decision, then the process could be completed within six months. Malton will be relieved that a resolution can be expected to this long-running saga within a few months, come what may. Let us not forget that RDC could end the matter right away by accepting their Councillors’ decision was flawed due it being based on inadequate advice.”
The proposal to build a superstore on Wentworth Street Car Park was opposed by Malton and Norton Town Councils, by the local business community, and by the overwhelming majority of local people. They will all wish the Estate well in this latest attempt to make Ryedale District Council see sense.
Pickles bottles out.
The Secretary of State for Planning has chosen not to object to Ryedale District Council’s decision to approve GMI Holbeck’s retail plans for Malton’s Wentworth Street Car Park – a plan in which the Council have a direct financial interest.
Following the Council’s decision to approve the development of the town’s Wentworth Street Car Park site back in April, opponents of the development including the Fitzwilliam Malton Estate requested that the plans be considered by the Secretary of State in a bid for the proposal to be independently reviewed. Mr Pickles has chosen not to take that course.
This is bad news for Malton. Roddy Bushell, the Fitzwilliam Malton Estate’s manager, says “Many people in Malton will be confused and appalled that the Secretary of State – after a lengthy and unexplained delay – has chosen to do absolutely nothing about the obviously defective planning procedure by which Ryedale District Council has granted permission for a superstore on its own Wentworth Street Car Park. By requiring an independent scrutiny of the proposal, he could have given this community its only opportunity to test the convenient evidence on which it relied.”
The Council’s plans ignore the Government’s own ‘town centre first’ policy. In turning a blind eye to the matter, the Secretary of State says he has relied on another Government policy which states that planning decisions should be taken locally. For Malton, this policy has not merely failed, but has worked against its intentions. The large majority of the Malton community passionately oppose the Council’s superstore and are enthusiastically in favour of the livestock market redevelopment to revitalise the town centre.
We cannot believe that Government intended that a district council, which stands to benefit financially from a planning consent, can ignore National Planning Policy without any independent scrutiny.
In the meantime the supermarket chains (like Tesco, who are the intended occupant of a store on the Wentworth Street Car Park) are having to change strategies in an ever-changing retail scene and there is no indication of any retailer having any interest in setting up on Wentworth Street Car Park. On the other hand, we’re told that Booths remain engaged with the design of the town centre Livestock Market development. The final details of that planning permission will go before Ryedale District Council in October after which the Council have 13 weeks to make their decision.
So, the next few months are going to be very important for our town – but then, when has that not been the case?
MASS urges Pickles to act to call in Ryedale’s decision on
Wentworth Street Car Park. Please do the same.
Local planning authorities will be able to evade the government’s “town centre first” policy and the evidence adopted in the creation of a Local Plan unless the decision by Ryedale District Council effectively to give itself planning permission for the development of the Wentworth Street Car Park is forced by government to be tested in an independent review.
That is the case put to Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, by the Fitzwilliam Estate who, along with local traders and campaigners, have united as MASS to oppose the proposed development.
The Secretary of State has powers to “call in” a council’s planning decision for review and is urged to do so since Ryedale’s decision would have nationwide implications which could have significant effects beyond its immediate locality.
If you support MASS please make your own representations to Eric Pickles.
His contact details are as follows:
House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 4428
Fax: 020 7219 2783
Department for Communities and Local Government, Eland House, Bressenden Place, London, SW1E 5DU
Tel: 030 3444 0000
Web & Social media
Our kind of town
“Independent shops are the backbone of Malton,” says Jez Swallow, owner of Smash Menswear in Finkle Street, being interviewed in June’s issue of Yorkshire Life Magazine. ‘The sheer breadth on offer is not something that can be reflected in cities, where the big-name chain stores are king.”
Our sentiments exactly, sentiments which we could wish were shared by those members of the Ryedale District Council Planning Committee who voted to approve plans for the building of a superstore on Wentworth Street Car Park in defiance of overwhelming local opposition.
We are still hoping that this decision will be called in by the Secretary of State but in the meantime Yorkshire Life are providing the opportunity for you to have your say. Let them know your views by emailing feedback@yorkshìrelife co.uk, tweeting @Yorkshire_Life or writing to Yorkshre Life, 1200 Century Way Leeds, LS15 8ZA
A useful lesson from history
There is an excellent new posting on Emmas Malton Journal a series of essays, mostly on the people, businesses and organisations in and around Malton that give the town its unique make-up.
The new posting reflects on the responsibility and humilty shown by Edmund Burke (who was MP for Malton between 1780 and 1794) Rockingham and the 18th century Whigs and sharply contrasts this with the arrogance and irresponsibility of the local Conservative ruling party on Ryedale District Council. It is well worth reading here
A shameful bit of business
By a majority of six to four Ryedale District Council planning committee voted on 25th April 2014 to approve the proposal to build a superstore on Wentworth Street Car Park, effectively giving itself planning permission. The vote was along party lines with all those voting for the application being members of the Conservative group. Two of them said openly that the Council should cash in on the sale of the asset to its chosen developer, GMI Holbeck.
In voting for the application these six members ignored the decision of the planning inspector from the previous appeal; their own local plan; substantial and credible questions about the data used to justify the application; threats to existing planned projects in Malton; threats to existing businesses and jobs; and overwhelming public opposition to the proposal from residents and businesses in Malton and the surrounding area. One councillor said she found the scale of the opposition (in excess of 4000 mostly local signatures) ‘unimpressive’.
It was a shameful business, the consequences of which will be far-reaching for Malton. It was, too, a terrible night for any notion that local views should carry weight in the planning process.
MASS petition handed in to Ryedale District Council
A small group of the huge number of people who have supported Malton against the Superstore presented the results of a paper petition to Shaun Robson, Planning Officer, Ryedale District Council on 15th April. As already reported, the petition and its online counterpart has resulted in excess of 4000 signatories.
More than 4000 people signed our petitions…
Whilst, in sharp contrast, the superstore developers, calling themselves all4malton, announced in a statement on 3rd April that there were 92 people in favour of a superstore * Emma Brooksbank of Totally Locally commented “The developers call their website all4malton: the figures themselves show quite how inappropriate that name is!”
MASS is led by Totally Locally Malton & Norton, the Malton & Norton Chamber of Trade and Fitzwilliam Malton Estate, working together. A spokesperson for MASS says that although the campaign generated nationwide interest, the overwhelming majority of signatories were from the local area – from the community of Malton, Old Malton and Norton – the people who know the town well, have a clear idea of its distinct heritage and an equally clear idea of the kind of future they want for Malton and Norton – which they have made very plain does not include a superstore on the car park.
A lot of comments have been made by signatories to the online petition at www.maltonsfuture.co.uk . You can read some of them by clicking on the link to the right in Additional Notes and Links .
*See @all4malton tweet on 3rd April.
MASS Demonstration : Saturday 15th March
Over 150 Malton folk gathered on Wentworth Street car park in the Saturday morning sunshine with children in pushchairs and dogs on leads. Guided by stewards so the traffic shouldn’t be interrupted, they marched peacefully along Wentworth Street, Princess Road, Newbiggin, St Michael’s Street and around the market place to the steps of the Old Town Hall, holding placards and chanting Save our Town… Save our Shops… Save our Jobs…
Short informative speeches were given by leaders of the community – Denys Townsend (Chamber of trade), David Lloyd Williams (Norton and Malton councillor and Area partnership), Paul Andrews (Malton and Ryedale district councillor) Elizabeth Shields (Norton and County councillor), Edward Legard (Ryedale district councillor, pictured above) Mike Skehan (Clerk to Malton town council, pictured below), and Selina Scott.
Town Clerk Mike Skehan reminded people that the town council had done a comprehensive survey of the community’s views and that the result had showed eighty per cent of people were against the development of the car park.
‘Why should we not have a Tesco on the car park?’ was shouted at the speakers by a man in the crowd. He got a spontaneous answer from a nearby marcher: ‘Because we already have a Lidl, an Asda, a Morrisons and a Sainsbury’s Local!’