Campaigners are calling on supporters to turn out in force for a march opposing plans for a new supermarket in Malton.
It promises to be their last-ditch attempt to persuade members of Ryedale District Council to turn down the application from GMI Holbeck for a store on Wentworth Street Car Park.
A picket is also planned outside Ryedale House, Malton, before today’s (March 6) 6.30pm full meeting of the authority, to pressure councillors into supporting a motion that calls for the final decision to be made by all members of the council, instead of solely the planning committee.
Cllr Paul Andrews, who is among four councillors supporting the motion, argues the council has a “vested financial interest” in supporting the application as it is in line for a £5 million windfall if the land is sold to the developer, therefore the vote should be open to everyone.
However, the council denies that any decision will be made for financial motives, pointing out that local planning authorities, by law, can only make decisions on planning grounds.
Cllr Andrews said: “It is very important that as many people as possible attend both the demonstration and also the march in order to show councillors the strength of local feeling. The march is the last opportunity the public will have of actually canvassing the members of the council before the decision is taken.”
The march has been organised by Malton and Norton Chamber of Trade and will set off from Wentworth Street Car Park on Saturday, March 15, at 10.30am. It will then head to Malton Town Hall, in the Market Place, where a number of speeches will be made.
“We are hoping to get very good support as we did the last time we had a march on this issue,” said chairman Denys Townsend. “We think the people will come out to demonstrate and listen to what is said in the addresses after the march.”
Although a date for the planning meeting has yet to be finalised, council chiefs expect it to be held at Malton School at the end of the month.
The Mercury understands this latest application, the final and full details of which have yet to be made public, will include a store, public piazza, three hours free parking and a petrol station offering fuel which is cheaper than currently offered in Ryedale.
Chiefs at GMI Holbeck have previously argued that their development would benefit Malton and Norton by attracting shoppers from all over Ryedale. They say it would offer easy links to Malton’s town centre shops, and the opportunity for shoppers to buy cheaper petrol.
Failure to build the store, they added, will see shoppers drawn away to Scarborough and York.
The plans are amended from a scheme which was previously granted planning permission but were then found flawed by a planning inspector in 2011 - meaning the application had to be reconsidered by the authority.
A rival scheme from the Fitzwilliam (Malton) Estate has already been approved by a planning inspector to build a store, retailing units and landscaping on the site of Malton’s 80-year-old livestock market, which is due to move to a new site on land near Eden Camp in Old Malton.
During the original application, the issues surrounding Wentworth Street Car Park sparked fierce debate among councillors and the public and were believed by many to have been a key factor in Malton and Norton during the 2011 Ryedale District Council elections.
This time around, volunteers with the campaign group Malton Against SuperStore (MASS) have been busy lobbying councillors, delivering posters, paper petitions and leaflets to businesses and shops across Malton. They have also taken to social media - gaining more than 400 signatures for its online petition and further support on Facebook and Twitter.
Additionally, Jeremy Powell, secretary of the Malton and Norton Chamber of Trade, recently polled members for their views on whether a new store is needed on Wentworth Street Car Park.
“The overriding opinion is that a supermarket is a bad idea for the town, there is no room for another store and the car park is needed as an asset for the town,” said Mr Powell, who is distributing leaflets to encourage traders to join the march. “That was the universal opinion.
“We definitely believe it is away from the town centre and there is the ‘barrier’ of the road and, even though it is a short distance, it is off-putting in this modern world where people are used to driving somewhere and parking up and being consumed by the supermarket and then going home.”
Cllr Andrews added: “Most people cannot see why there needs to be another supermarket. Most people cannot see why Ryedale should not abide by the inspector’s decision.
“There are some who will have different views but I don’t think many of them realise there is not going to be access from Broughton Road to the A64, so any traffic will have to go right through the narrow historic streets of Malton.”
Both Ryedale District Council and GMI Holbeck declined to comment.