Another battle is looming over controversial plans to develop Wentworth Street Car Park in Malton.
Campaigners say the decision about whether to support the planning application to build a supermarket on the site should be made by all members of Ryedale District Council - not just the authority’s planning committee.
They argue that the decision should be open to all as the council has a “vested financial interest” in the car park and will be in line for a £5 million cash windfall if the planning committee supports the application from GMI Holbeck when it is debated in the coming weeks.
“It is an unusual planning application because normally if members have a prejudicial interest in a planning application, they are not allowed to debate it,” said Cllr Paul Andrews, who has long campaigned against the development.
“However in this case, every council member does have a vested financial interest because the car park is owned by the council.”
“If this application had come from a private individual on the planning committee, they would have to leave the room but because its debating its own land, no one has to leave the room and the council can, in effect, put itself above the law. It’s absurd.”
Now Cllr Andrews, together with Cllrs Lindsay Burr, Elizabeth Shields and Brian Maud, have put forward a motion demanding the application be taken out of the hands of the planning committee and to be decided by the whole council instead. It will be debated at the full council meeting on Thursday, March 6, at 6.30pm.
Their arguments also centre on how the application is the “most critical decision for the community of Malton and Norton for a generation,” and how the planning committee is “under-represented” with members from Malton and Norton and “may not clearly represent community opinion.”
Cllr Andrews said: “If the proposed development does go ahead, Ryedale will gain £5 million in the short term. The town in the long term will be drastically changed because of this and it won’t do Malton any good.”
He called on campaigners to join them at the meeting on Thursday to show their support.
A spokesman for Ryedale District Council said: “Although the application site is owned by the district council, the norm is that such planning applications are dealt with by the Planning Committee.
“The reason for this is that by law the Local Planning Authority can only make decisions on planning grounds and not for financial motives.
“The membership of the Planning Committee is decided at annual council. The membership is proportionate to the political composition of the Council.
The locally elected ward councillor does have the opportunity to speak on applications relating to their ward at the Planning Committee
“Against this background this motion is a departure from the normal practice.”