Pleas for transparency and integrity at Ryedale District Council meeting
A large number of MASS supporters with placards gathered at the entrance to the Council offices before the meeting to make clear their opposition to the superstore, then filled the public gallery to hear the motion for the superstore application to be determined by full council rather than the planning committee being debated.
The Chair of the Council said it was perfectly normal for Councils to make planning decisions on their own land, but they have to be careful to make those decisions on proper planning grounds. It should be noted however that there are ten members of the planning committee, only one of which is a representative of Malton and Norton, although those towns have a quarter of the population of Ryedale.
Councillors in favour of the motion thought all 30 council members should have a say to make it more democratic and ensure the process and decision were more open and transparent. Cllr John Clark (in favour) commented on the competence of the Chairman of the Planning Committee (Cllr John Raper), pointing out that he had mishandled the the previous decision on the WSCP superstore application (March 2012) by prematurely ‘moving it for approval’ and effectively stifling debate. Cllr Clark also reminded councillors and the public of the recent planning fiasco in Kirbymoorside, noting that “the Chairman says he always goes with the officers’ recommendation on a tied vote”.
Conservative councillors opposed to the motion said it questioned the integrity of the planning committee and that those not on the planning committee could be accused of predetermination and would also not have appropriate planning training.
Cllr Edward Legard (in favour) said the motion had nothing to do with the integrity of the planning committee, that trying to make something more democratic is not immoral and that accusations of predetermination could equally be levelled at the planning committee. He said RDC were responsible for the “20 carat Horlicks” (costs of at least £200,000 for local taxpayers) from the wrong decision last time.
Edward Legard continued by pointing out that incorporating a ‘northern arc’ into the Local Plan was “an act of supreme arrogance” by Ryedale Council and that the ‘windfall’ from the sale of WSCP represented about half the annual budget (e.g. a huge financial incentive). He commented that if Sheffield, for example, were in a similar position, they would not be able to make a decision on their own asset.
Cllr Luke Ives (opposed) stated that the planning process is quasi judicial and that “politics plays no part in it whatsoever”. Cllr Linda Cowling (Council Leader) said the motion was “a blatant attempt to manipulate the democratic process.” She also categorically denied ever calling the people of Malton ‘moaning minnies’, saying those words were someone else’s. That was an astonishing assertion given that the York Press on 10th November 2010, reported her as saying: “And before it is mentioned, yes, the Scouts and the rifle club will also be well looked after if the moaning minnies in Malton are not successful in stopping this exciting development going ahead.”
Cllr Paul Andrews, who brought the motion, commented that it was “unprincipled, immoral and undemocratic” not to permit all councillors to make a decision on something so important which would affect the whole of Ryedale, not only Malton and Norton. Cllr John Clark said: “Let full council carry the can for this.”
The motion was put to the vote: 12 for and 15 against.
The motion failed and the decision will be made by the planning committee, but the vote was much closer than in July 2010 when the council decided to sell the car park for a superstore and than in November 2010 when they chose the developer.
A new guide
We’ve produced a new guide to all the issue surrounding the latest planning application to build a superstore on Wentw0orth Street Car Park .
You can pick up a copy in any of the Town’s independent stores or download a copy by clicking on the link to print out at home.