RYEDALE District Council will be forced to pay a bill running into hundreds of thousands of pounds after a Government Planning Inspector overturned its decision to refuse planning permission on Malton Livestock Market.
Inspector David Wildsmith has awarded costs to the Fitzwilliam (Malton) Estate and given the landowner outline permission to demolish the livestock market and redevelop it to include a food store and retail units, three-storey car park and public square, it emerged yesterday.
Mr Wildsmith’s ruling comes after a public inquiry was called to investigate the decision by the council’s planning committee to refuse planning permission earlier this year.
Roddy Bushell, estate manager for the Fitzwilliam (Malton) Estate, said: “I am sure the large majority of the people of Malton, residents and businesses alike, will be relieved by this historic decision.
“The very important livestock market site can now be transformed from a use which is no longer appropriate, to expand Malton’s town centre and play a vital role in its economic future.
“This has been a very long process. Perhaps the saddest aspect of this decision is that it means the Council were wrong to oppose the original application that the estate made for this site in 2007.
“Five long years, hundreds of man hours and hundreds of thousands of pounds have been wasted since then that should have been put to good use in the town.
“We can never recover those lost resources but we will resolve to put all that behind us and to move forward now in a positive manner,” he added.
“I hope that this will be the signal for the district council to put aside its own agenda and truly listen to what the Malton community has made clear it wants for its town.”
The decision is an expensive hammer blow to the authority and its councillors who must now find the money to pay the costs as well as make extensive savings to the 2013/14 budget in the wake of further Government funding cuts.
The inspector’s decision also follows hot on the heels of the revelation at that same September inquiry that the council would have to take its plans for a supermarket on Wentworth Street Car Park, Malton, back to the drawing board when it emerged that councillors had been given flawed information when they granted planning permission for the site.
The council had hoped to make £5 million for its coffers from the sale and the development of the car park.
In a short statement to the Mercury, a council spokesman said: “Ryedale District Council acknowledges the decision of the Planning Inspectorate in allowing the Livestock Market Application appeal.
“Officers are currently evaluating the 24 page decision and the various limitations placed on the development and the implications on the Wentworth Street proposals, which the council has already acknowledged will need to be considered again by the planning committee.”
The inspector’s ruling also puts pressure on the future of the livestock market as the estate gave the leaseholders notice that it must quit the site by October 5, 2013.
The newly-formed Malton and Ryedale Farmers Livestock Market company are currently working towards a housing a new market on land near Eden Camp, Old Malton, but were hopeful that the estate would give them an extension to the lease on the current site in the meantime.
In the appeal decision, Mr Wildsmith said: “Although the Livestock Market is undoubtedly valued by some sectors of the community, no firm, factual evidence has been placed before me to demonstrate its importance to the social and economic fabric of the area, as claimed by the council. I am not persuaded that the loss of the Livestock Market would reduce the community’s ability to meet its day-to-day needs, as referred to in this Framework Appeal.”
Cllr Keith Knaggs, leader of Ryedale District Council, said: “I am disappointed but not surprised by the Inspectors decision which exemplifies the difficulties which can arise from a single un-elected official sitting in judgement on the decisions of those elected by the public.
“However I accept that the council was unable to defend its position to the Inspector’s satisfaction and officers will work with the Fitzwilliam Estate in achieving a successful development on the Livestock Market site.
“I am particularly concerned that the Inspector did not attach enough weight to the importance of preserving a viable Livestock Market in or near Malton. I will continue to support the efforts being made to retain this vital part of our local economy.
“Formal permission on proposals at Wentworth Street has not been granted and the Planning Committee will need to look again at those proposals in view of the changed circumstances.”
The four main issues which Mr Wildsmith looked at in respect of the livestock market application included the sequential approach to town centre uses, and its effect on the vitality and viability of Malton town centre; whether development of the site should be dependent on the relocation of the existing livestock market; and the effect of the proposed development on the character and appearance of the surrounding area.
But he said: “Having considered the four main issues prompted by the council’s reasons for refusal alongside the submitted evidence and taking into account the changed position of the council on a number of key matters as the inquiry progressed, my overall conclusion is that this proposal is acceptable and would represent sustainable development.”
Mr Wildsmith also ruled that a “partial award of costs is warranted” but said that the council did not act “unreasonably in declining to grant a conditional approval, in view of its strong opposition to the proposal on several grounds.”
He has imposed 18 planning conditions on the Fitzwilliam (Malton) Estate that is needs to meet in the development of the livestock market. They are related to living conditions of residents in the surrounding area, safeguarding the character and appearance of the area and to ensure the scheme secures the retail benefits intended by the development, among others.
Paul Andrews, a member of Ryedale District Council, said: “I welcome the decision. I hope that this will compel the council to abandon all their plans for a supermarket on Wentworth Street Car Park and I would hope that Ryedale District Council will now work together with all the other stakeholders in Malton and Norton in order to achieve a lasting prosperity in our two towns. As far as the payment of costs is concerned, I hope the council will not pursue this saga any more or use any more taxpayers money. I would be very disappointed that the council would have to make cuts to save the errors, folies and mistakes of the leader.”