Councillors to be quizzed over flaws
Senior politicians will be quizzed tomorrow over the controversy surrounding Ryedale District Council’s decision to back one retail scheme over another.
Last March planners threw out the Fitzwilliam Estate’s plans to demolish Malton Livestock Market and redevelop it to include a food store, retail units, three- storey car park and public square.
However, this was overturned by a planning inspector after a public inquiry was called to investigate the decision and the council has been ordered to pay costs to the estate.
Inspector David Wildsmith also ruled that the authority’s decision to grant planning permission for a giant supermarket to be built on Wentworth Street car park in Malton earlier in the year was flawed, a move that means the application will now have to be reconsidered by the council.
Councillors Edward Legard and Paul Andrews are now preparing to quiz bosses at the authority over the two planning applications at tomorrow’s full council meeting.
Questions will be asked over how much the authority has had to pay out in legal costs and the number of officers’ hours spent on the process.
After Mr Wildsmith said mistakes had been made in the planning process, they will also ask why officers recommended the livestock market application for refusal, suggesting councillors who made the final decision may have been given incorrect advice.
Cllr Andrews believes officers may have been “influenced by political and financial conditions which were forced upon them by other parties”.
He said: “For a long time I have felt that the approach to Wentworth Street car park has been on political and financial grounds and very little to do with the planning merits of the cattle market or the car park. The inspector has confirmed my fears by saying the council made the wrong recommendation and there was no excuse for that.
“I think it is absolutely deplorable that the town and particularly the local business community should have been put in such a sad and unfortunate position. I would also say that during my experience working as a local Government officer, I was told the one thing you should never do is take risks with public money. Ryedale’s ruling group has taken risks with public money and I think they have lost the trust of the public as well.”
Last year the council voted to grant developer GMI Holbeck planning permission to build a superstore on Wentworth Street car park, which the authority agreed to sell for a £5 million windfall.
But at the same meeting councillors also turned down the application from the Fitzwilliam Estate to build a smaller food store on the site of the livestock market.
Mr Wildsmith’s decision means the estate’s application has been granted outline planning permission.
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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