Brief explanatory Note:
Ryedale's Local Plan is the most controversial local plan I have ever known.
Ryedale District Council is controlled politically by people who seem to have no sympathy with the countryside or country market towns. As seen below, it took them five years before they finally decided to back local farms and villages against the Environment Agency on the flooding issue.
Now they have used the Local Plan as a means to catastrophically change Malton/Norton into something like Monks Cross - a little city.
Because they are mesmerised by the attractions of city life, they behave as though they think our country towns are backwaters inhabited by woolly backs. In some ways, it is as though Ryedale has been taken over by aliens from another planet.
In 2005, they put up car park fees to a level which few Malton shoppers were ever likely to pay. There was a fees trial for lower fees. This was evaluated late, and the evaluation was found to be wrong by a Scrutiny investigation. This did not stop Ryedale putting long stay car park fees up in full knowledge that this would discourage most people from using Wentworth Street car park - see below.
So then they looked for a new use of Wentworth Street car park - as a supermarket - even though they had been told by two consultants what most people knew anyway: there just isn't enough room for another supermarket in Malton in the short term.
Council leader, Keith Knaggs dismissed the figures which the Consultants had used as: "What nonsense!" The planners, referring to these figures, said that retail capacity for convenience products is only one of many material considerations, and that "overprovision may be the way forward". Councillor Keith Knaggs had, in January 2008, stated to a full meeting of Business in Action that he never used Malton shops, as the "quality of the town's retail offer" was not good enough for him.
From the point of view of local business, with a friendly administration such as this, who needs enemies?
Regardless of the consultants' views, the Council granted planning permission for an extension of Morrisons in Malton,a new Lidl in Norton, and a new TESCO express at Kirby Moorside.. They have readily accepted the advice that the Morrisons extension and the new Lidl, developments comprising over 18,000 sq. ft net sales area would generate no more than 35 additional traffic movements at Butcher's Corner on Saturdays!
In 2010 they approved a new Aldi in Norton comprising 1,200 sq.m. net sales area. This has not been built.
They also put Wentworth Street Car Park up for sale by tender. A tender by GMI Holbeck was accepted by the Council, following a Council meeting of 17th November 2010, the sale was "subject to planning"..
One might have thought they would have had some plan in mind for dealing with the new road traffic likely to be generated by the proposed new supermarket on Wentworth Street car park or the proposals for an alternative development of the Cattlemarket by the Malton Estate Company (See link below). The obvious solution would have been to make the bridge of the Broughton Road over the A64 into a four way grade separated motorway intersection. Instead they agreed the proposals of Malton School to lay out a multi use games area in a position which would effectively block one of the proposed slip roads.
On housing the position is even more of a disaster.
For years new housing has been controlled by restricting new houses within defined village or town development limits. The Council has now abandoned this policy by restricting full market price new housesto the market towns and service villages, and imposed a 50% share of this on Malton/Norton, when these towns have less than 28% of Ryedale's population - a policy which is far from fair on Malton/Norton.A document produced by the Council suggests that the actual figure they have in mind is 2,165 new houses for Malton/Norton (two thirds of all new housing in the district for the next 15 years), although the Council say the figure is only 1,500.
Meanwhile, house builders will only be allowed to build houses within the village development limits of the non-service villages, if a condition is attached restricting occupation to people with a local connection to Ryedale only. This would reduce the value of new houses by at least 10%. This might work in the National Park, but will clearly discourage house builders from building in villages in the rest of Ryedale.For those of us who are interested in the continuing vitality of our villages and the viability of local pubs and the few village shops and other facilities that remain, this should be a cause for serious concern.
On highways, please give your fullest attention to this article. It will be seen that Ryedale has produced a "Strategic Transport Assessment" which is politically driven and fundamentally flawed. Reports were produced by Allan Martin and myself which showed that the minimum impact of the Council's proposals would be to increase local traffic by 18,760 new vehicular trips per day. Allan Martin is
the former area highways surveyor who was responsible for advising on development control for an area wider than Ryedale for over 30 years. He retired 10 years ago.
The Local Plans Hearing. The Council produced their local plan to an inspector in 2012. The Council's documents were voluminous and badly flawed, but the inspector was not interested in this, as he was clearly under pressure to get the plan approved. The hearing lasted twelve days, and I attended every day of the hearing. I produced several documents most of which are reproduced here. In approving the plan, the inspector took no notice of the Malton and Norton Neighbourhood Plan which had been the subject of extensive local consultation, of a report by former Highways Surveyor Allan Martin (which showed that the Council's local plans proposals would create 28,760 new vehicular trips per day) or of a damning report on sewerage and drainage by a professional engineer who is very familiar with the district. The inspector approved the plan subject to a few minor alterations. This is appalling, and there needs to be a campaign to get the plan change
How do matters stand now - just before Election 2015?
The neighbourhood Plan for Malton and Norton was adopted
as an interim plan by both Malton and Norton town councils in 2011, after an
extensive public consultation. However, the ruling group and others on Ryedale
District Council were not interested in what Malton/Norton residents wanted or
their reasoning. The document was presented to Ryedale, but Ryedale refused to
even consider or debate the plan at any Council or Committee meeting. The two
main issues between Ryedale and both town councils were the retail issue and the
amount and distribution of new development. As regards retail, both town
councils favoured the development of the Cattle Market Area, and opposed the
development of Wentworth Street Car Park as a superstore site. As regards the
amount and distribution of new development, both Councils took the view that the
total number of houses for both towns should not exceed 1,000 – starting from
2009. The view was taken that there is not the infrastructure to accommodate
even this increase.
sorry saga of Wentworth Street Car Park rumbles on. Ryedale has in effect been
waging a war against our two towns. The car park was sold to developers (subject
to planning and other conditions), and in due course the developers submitted a
planning application. Meanwhile, more than half a year earlier, the Fitzwilliam
Estate had submitted an application for the redevelopment of the Cattle Market.
Both these applications were examined by the same consultants who had in 2008
dismissed the car park and favoured the Cattle Market. However, as we all know,
he who pays the piper calls the tune, and in 2012 these same consultants
dutifully issued a report favouring the car park against the Cattle Market. The
Estate appealed and the inspector upheld the Estate and allowed their appeal.
The inspector awarded costs against Ryedale which were later agreed at £148,000.
In his decision letter dated October 2012, the Inspector damned Ryedale for
taking a view on the “sequential test” for which “there can be no excuse”. The
“sequential test” is one of several key tests used for the determination of any
Regrettably Ryedale did not accept the Inspector’s
decision. A revised planning application for a superstore on the car park was
submitted, and this came to committee in April 2014. It had been carefully
examined on the Council’s behalf by another consultant, who, amongst other
matters, surprisingly advised that the inspector’s decision on the “sequential
test” was wrong and accordingly advised the Council to grant consent. The report
has many weaknesses, including the fact that it relies considerably on a market
survey which had been overtaken by events and was therefore out of date when the
committee came to consider the application. So, once again one has to ask: does
the authority which pays the piper call the tune, as, from the inspector’s above
comment would seem to have happened in regard to the previous
weaknesses I have identified will be found in the linked joint report of
myself and Paul Beanland and the
comments I submitted on the revised application, and to the Secretary of State. The
planning issue has been the subject of many linked articles, as well as two petitions and
two marches, and other public opposition.
So, Ryedale granted consent
again. The Fitzwilliam Estate applied to the High Court for judicial review.
Some of the grounds for the Estate’s case are very similar to points raised in
my comments on the application. A copy is linked in two parts (Part 1 and Part 2). This court application has to be
authorised by a judge before it can go to trial. The Estate have used one of the
most senior planning law Queen’s Counsel, and in my experience, they do not like
to take risks. So it is surprising that the judge refused to authorise the case
for trial.However, the Estate appealed and the appeal judge has overturned the previous judge's decision and ordered the case to go to trial - which is expected some time in June.
The linked copy of the previous judgement seems
to suggest that the view is taken that an inspector’s decision which has been
made after fully reasoned debate and cross-examination of expert witnesses can
be overturned by the same council which had unsuccessfully defended the appeal,
if later on the Council can rely on a consultants’ report which has not been
tested by fully reasoned debate or cross-examination of witnesses. If this is
what the judge means, I don’t accept it. I think the judge made a mistake. In any event the appeal judge has overruled the decision.
anybody is in any doubt as to whether Ryedale considers it is at war with
Malton, one only has to consider the linked remarks of Councillor Linda Cowling
on the previous judgement (she is the leader of Ryedale and the leader of the ruling
Conservative group): “Love it, absolutely love it.
Can I frame it and put it on the wall!” No hint of
conciliation there. No concern for the small businesses and their staff which
keep the town centre going. All Ryedale is concerned about is realising an asset
at the highest possible price (£5M), regardless of its consequences on the town.
When she knows very well that the town is fighting for its survival, all
Councillor Cowling can do is revel in a decision which could lead to its
destruction and give a whoop of triumph
the meantime, the retail market has changed. The big four chains have stopped
expanding, as Lidl, ASDA and other deep discount stores have taken over the
bottom end of the market, and at the top end of the market, their place has been
taken by stores such as Waitrose, Booths and M&S. The consequence is that
there is little prospect of any retail development on the car park in the
foreseeable future – even if the Council’s decision is allowed to stand.
However, Booths are interested in the Cattle Market, but may not want to go
ahead with this while there is a threat of a development on the car park. The
result of this situation could lead to the stagnation of the town, while Ryedale
and the developers sit on an unwanted site, and so discourage the kind of
development which would not only stimulate the town centre, but also complement
the existing retail provision.
One of the features of the Car Park saga is the way the
ordinary rules of town and country planning seem to have become distorted by
financial considerations – in the case of the Car Park, by the prospect of the
Council getting £5M. Both the initial application and the revised application
had to be referred to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State had the
power to “call in” the applications and order an inspector appointed by him to
consider them. He refused to call in either application, without giving reasons.
I duly made an access for information request for the reasons and a copy of the
case officer’s report. On both occasions I received letters which went to great
lengths to explain why certain passages in the reports copied to me had been
“redacted”. As regards the copy reports which were provided, in the first case,
the report contained some brief particulars, and three blank pages, where the
text had been “redacted”. In the second case, the report briefly summarised the
arguments of both sides, but the passages of the report dealing with the
officer’s reasoning and conclusions had also been “redacted”.
Yes, this is a government which says one thing, does
another, does not enforce its own published policies, and is not prepared to
justify its decisions against its own policies or expose them to challenge.
It’s a case of: “do as we say – not as we do”.
The unfair dumping of massive new
development on Malton and Norton
Another example of the way the planning rules have
become distorted for financial reasons concerns residential development. The
government has been progressively withdrawing grant from councils, but in order
to encourage new development “to kick start the economy”, a “new homes bonus”
grant is paid to Councils who give planning consent for new residential
development. This money was originally intended to be used for capital projects
such as infrastructure in the neighbourhoods where the new development is built.
However, over time it has become established that the “new home bonus” grant can
be used for revenue expenditure purposes – i.e. to support the everyday running
of Council services. So Councils have a vested financial interest in granting
planning permissions, and the practice has evolved that the anticipated receipts
for “new homes bonus” is written into Council budgets. As Councils become
progressively squeezed by government cuts, they become more and more dependent
on grants of this kind.
What is the impact of this on Ryedale in general and
Malton/Norton in particular?
2012 I attended public hearing into what was then the draft Ryedale Plan for
its entire duration. On some of the days town Councillors David Lloyd Williams
and Jason Fitzgerald-Smith and the Town Clerk also attended in order to support
the Malton and Norton interim Neighbourhood Plan. As mentioned above, the draft
Ryedale Plan had been pushed through without regard to the views of residents of
Malton and Norton, as established by a thorough public consultation of the views
of Malton and Norton residents and residents of the surrounding parishes and
embedded in our interim Neighbourhood Plan. The Neighbourhood Plan was submitted
to Ryedale, but was never allowed to be submitted for debate either to a Council
committee or to a full meeting of Ryedale Council.
refer to two of the issues in the plan. The first related to the establishment
of a “Northern Arc”, which the Council was relying upon as part of the
justification for developing Wentworth Street Car Park as a
second issue relates to housing.
Ryedale is a rural authority with an area of over 550
square miles, but the rural members did not want any new houses in their patch –
thank you very much, sir. So the local plan they prepared requires the five
market towns to take 90% of all new housing development, and 100% of all other
development. Of the five towns, Malton and Norton are required to take 50% of
all new houses and 80% of all new employment development. Malton/Norton would
take 1,500 new houses. The Neighbourhood Plan consultation of early 2011 showed
that Malton/Norton residents and the other residents who contributed would
accept 1,000 new homes. In spite of the representations made at the hearing into
the draft Ryedale Plan, the inspector approved it more or less as the Council
had written it, and required Malton/Norton to accept 1,500 new
Ryedale Plan was adopted by Ryedale in September 2013, with a start date of
1st April 2012. So for the fifteen years from that date,
malton/Norton have to provide 1,500 new houses. In the meantime – between when
Ryedale’s consultation began in 2009 and 1st April 2012, planning
permission for perhaps as many as 500 new homes had been granted in
Malton/Norton – including 270 at Broughton Rise. Further, in addition to the
1,500 houses starting from 1st April 2012, there has to be added a
20% “buffer”. So, instead of having to provide 1,000 new homes from 2009, the
number required is actually going to exceed 2,000 by 2027. This is in addition
to the five and half thousand or so homes which were situated in Malton/Norton
in 2008. So what Ryedale has decided to do is to grow the two towns by almost a third
its 2008 size.
do not need to be a highly qualified expert to realise that this is going to
have a catastrophic impact on the drains, sewers, highways and other
infrastructure which are already over capacity. I investigated two of these
infrastructure issues in some depth.
First, as regards the drainage situation generally, much
of the undeveloped land in Malton/Norton is in the flood plain. So there are not
many sites suitable for large scale development.
Secondly, the drainage/sewerage system is an antiquated
combined system, which means that when there is a lot of rain, the surface water
runs into the foul water pipes and the two mix. In Summer, when there is not so
much rain, the smell from the foul water sewers wafts into the surface water
drains and out onto the roads, and it is this which causes the odour problems at
Butcher’s Corner and Wheelgate, Castlegate, Old Malton Gate and Yorkersgate. In
times of extreme weather, Old Malton and Sheepgate Hill flood, as a result of
excess surface water backing up and not being able to escape into the river.
When this happens, the foul water mixes with the surface water. I obtained the linked report from a drainage
engineer, presented it to the inspector at the 2012 hearing into the local
plan, but he was not interested in this because he said the draft Ryedale Plan
was only a strategic document and issues of this kind should be dealt with at
the “site allocation” stage.
Highways issue is worse than this. A consultant was appointed by Ryedale, and
they produced a “Strategic Transport Assessment” for Malton and Norton. Here
again one has to ask to what extent the Consultant might have been dancing to
Ryedale’s tune. The document they produced was highly controversial and was
never adopted at a full council meeting. Instead it was placed on the Council’s
website “for the guidance of developers”. I did my own analysis and a copy is
linked. I asked Alan Martin who had been responsible for the highways aspect
of development control for an area much wider than Ryedale for thirty years up
to 2005, and he prepared a report (copy
linked), and both he and I followed it up with another
report (also linked). Again, these documents were produced at the plans
hearing in 2012, but the inspector was not interested in them because he said
the draft Ryedale Plan was only a strategic document and issues of this kind
should be dealt with at the “site allocation” stage.
Needless to say, Ryedale have not made much progress
with land allocation, with the result that development in M alton and Norton has
become a developers’ free for all, as planning permissions for major
developments have been granted without any prioor consideration on how to deal
with the highways and drainage issues. Another 80 houses have been given
permission at Broughton Rise, and we’ve had the Cattle market related
development proposals (300 houses – most of them at the show field) and the
proposals for another 500 homes at Higher Malton. Please find linked my objections to the Cattle
Market and associated proposals and my objection to Higher Malton.
Please note that I have always been in favour of
relocating the livestock market, but not to any site or at any price. The
Council was told that the relocation could not be viable unless the Fitzwilliam
Trust was given permission for the 300 houses as “enabling development”. All but
35 of these houses will have to have direct access to Pasture Lane, which will
also be accessed directly from Broughton Rise and the new superstore (if it is
ever built). This to my mind was holding the town to ransom, and was a price
which was far too high for the town, particularly bearing in mind the drainage
implications for Old Malton. So, if you think I was wrong, please read my linked
Please also note that there are no plans to build a four-way motorway-type intersection
between the A64 and the Broughton Road in the foreseeable future.
So most of the new traffic generated by the new development will have to pass
through Malton town centre.
I have fought to stop Malton and
Norton being overwhelmed by new development, but now the Ryedale Plan has been
approved, there is little that can be done in the short term to change
it.Perhaps the coming election may provide the opportunity to change this. In
the meantime Malton and Norton have to make the very best of a very bad
situation. We need to consider where all this new housing is going to go. I
believe the following principles should govern the way future sites are
allocated in Malton and Norton:
- Traffic and drainage considerations should be the main determining factors;
- Traffic from new sites which does not need to go through Malton/Norton
should be able to escape without doing so, and to achieve this, no new site
should be given permission unless it has direct access to a four-way
intersection with the A64. This would rule out “High Malton”.
- “Direct access”` does not mean that sites must be near or adjacent to either
intersection, but simply that traffic from the new sites should have access
without having to go through either town;
- The only four way traffic intersections with the A64 are at Old Malton and
- There should be no new development without betterment. In other words, we
should not accept developer promises not to make, for example, land drainage any
worse than it is already: they must be required to provide improvements, so that
new development actually benefits the town.
- There should be no more new development at Old Malton until and unless there
is a permanent solution to the flooding problem there (eg. By building a pumping
station like the one at Prior Pot in Norton).
- No more new development should be permitted in either town until and unless
the necessary infrastructure (eg. Schools, roads, sewers, doctors etc) are in
If these principles were to be
adopted, it would be sensible to phase further development, so that permission
is given in other towns and in the service villages before any more development
is allowed in Malton or Norton.
The budget and
Another issue which has arisen this year is the Council
budget. The Conservative Ruling Group will doubtless take credit for not
increasing the Council Tax over the last four years. What they will find
difficult to explain is how they have increased Council charges and introduced
new charges. The government has encouraged Councils not to increase tax in
return for a balancing government grant, Unfortunately, if tax is not increased
in line with inflation, there is a ratchet effect. So, if tax is not increased
in year one, the Council will get the balancing grant. If it doesn’t increase
tax in year 2, it gets the same balancing grant as it got for year 1, and so on.
The result is that the Council has had to find other ways of financing its
services. This is why the brown bin collection service is now no longer paid for
out of our Council Tax, but is a service we have to pay for separately. Although
the amount is only £37 per annum, for those of us who have to pay for this
service, the payment is equivalent to more than a 10% increase in Ryedale’s
share of Band D Council tax. I have voted for or supported increases of the
Council tax in line with inflation and opposed any increase in charges above the
rate of inflation. I voted against the imposition of the charge for the emptying
of brown bins.
Then there is the issue of fracking. I started with an
open mind, as the idea of having a gas well near my village did not particularly
concern me – we already have three. However, I then went to an anti-fracking
presentation, and was swayed by their arguments. Still wanting to hear the other
side, I attended two closed meetings: one for parish council representatives and
the other for Ryedale District Council members. At both meetings I tested some
of the questions which arose from the linked
literature I had received from Ryedale against Fracking. The answers to most
of these questions was “We don’t know” or “It depends on the planning
permission.” This was entirely unsatisfactory as far as I was concerned. So my
concern has increased, and further info is exhibited by clicking here
Finally, there is an election this year. Since I went
independent in 2004, I have tried to keep out of party politics. I am a
conventional man, and have never been left-wing or a thorough-going
environmentalist. I am not anti-conservative, and worked well for years with
conservatives like Jason Fitzgerald Smith, as well as with independents and
leading Liberal Democrats like David Lloyd Williams. However, in the last few
years the Conservative Party seems to have lost its way. It has become
increasingly the evil empire of British politics and the Ryedale Council Group
is perhaps only one of its worst manifestations.
only things the Conservatives seem to understand is money and big business. How
the rest of us work and live just doesn’t seem to matter. The traders and
businesses of Malton asked the Secretary of State to call in the Wentworth
Street applications, but Mr. Pickles and his team seem to have been more
interested in keeping in with the TESCO’s of this world than in getting that
case to be judged against his own department’s policies by one of his own
inspectors. And then he would not tell anybody why he decided not to call in the
case – not once, but twice.
local plans inspector from Mr. Pickles’ department felt he had to approve the
draft Ryedale Plan, when it had no adequate provision for infrastructure for the
houses the Council will grant planning permission for in Malton and Norton –
regardless of the antiquated combined drainage system and the already congested
roads. We were told these issues would be dealt with at the “site selection”
stage, but planning permissions have been issued for large developments ahead of
the site selection process.
Government policy in regard to the “New Homes Bonus”
encourages Councils to give permission for huge new housing estates adjacent to
country market towns, instead of planning carefully a more even distribution
where land would be available for small builders and developers.
then, after all they have said and done about preserving the countryside and not
allowing new development in the countryside, along come the oil and gas
companies and ask Cameron and co to facilitate fracking in country areas. As
they are big business, all bets are off, and Cameron will do everything he can
to encourage them – notwithstanding experience elsewhere and the fact that
fracking has been banned in France, Holland, Germany and New York State.
Conservative Group in Ryedale have their private meetings and decide what they
are going to vote for. This is before the meeting which actually makes the
decision. So they come to these meetings with their minds already made up,
sometimes under the whip, and can’t understand why other members should be
allowed to argue, debate and challenge them! They are not interested in wasting
their time listening to reasoned argument. All they want to do is vote and go
home as early as they can, and if that means changing Council rules, they do
Sadly, I have come to the conclusion that there is
little point in voting Conservative. If their candidate comes to the door and
gives a reasonable account of his views, there is no way any voter can expect
that candidate to live up to his beliefs, as when they get onto the Council they
become bound by the strongest of ties of loyalty to the group: group loyalty is
far more important for Conservative members than voting for what they know
residents really want.
And when their party seems to
have triumphed over residents’ opinions, their leader couldn’t be more pleased: “Love it,
absolutely love it. Can I frame it and put it on the wall!” says Councillor Linda Cowling, as she gleefully sees herself trample, grind down
and crush under her heel, the decent, honest, hard-working people who struggle
to run successful businesses in Malton and Norton
you want to change this sorry state of affairs, good people must stand for
election against these tyrants. Evil only prevails when good people do nothing.
At the last election, the main reason the Conservatives got elected was because
six Council seats were uncontested. This should not be allowed to happen again.
There is a view that politics should not come into local government. If you
agree, why not put yourself up for election as an independent?
When voting, ask the candidates where they stand on
issues which concern you, and vote accordingly. Do not vote along party lines,
and do not vote Conservative