Christmas and New Years Message 2014 -2015

Dear Residents,


This has been an eventful year.


Jason Fitzgerald Smith, former mayor and then deputy mayor, died of cancer in January. His passing has been a great loss to Malton. He was a good friend and ally in our joint efforts to save Malton from all kinds of threats. He loved Malton and we and others have worked together for many years, meeting regularly on Wednesday mornings to coordinate our work. He supported and promoted the joint Neighbourhood Plan for Malton and Norton, and vigorously opposed Ryedales’ efforts to impose a new superstore on Malton at Wentworth Street Car Park.


I was elected deputy mayor after Jason’s death. His is a very hard act to follow.


As residents will recall 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.


The Retail issue


The 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 retail application.


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 application?


The 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.


The linked copy of the 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. I don’t believe the law is quite so stupid. It will be a travesty of justice if the Estate are not allowed to proceed to trial, as this would not only make an ass of the law, but may also suggest that there could be something seriously wrong with the British judicial system. It is understood that the Estate are considering their options with their lawyers, and one hopes  they will appeal.


If 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 judgement (who 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


In 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?


In 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.


I 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 superstore.


The 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 houses.


The 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 town by almost a third its 2008 size.


You 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.


The 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 comments.


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 Brambling Fields;
  • 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 place.

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 charges


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 unless I am given some very good answers to the concerns which have been raised publicly in the press for many months now, I will be against fracking.


The effects of fracking are graphically shown in the video you will find on this linked web page.


 I will set out my concerns in a separate document now linked to this letter. However, two points should be at the forefront of all our minds: firstly the impact on house prices.I read in the Gazette a letter which quotes a government report which did look into house prices. Regrettably that section of the report had been “redacted”. Bearing in mind my other experiences of “redacted” reports, this should give residents no reason for confidence.


The second point concerns the £100,000 community payment. Who is this going to be paid to, one wonders? I can’t see the government trusting small parish councils with this money. So will the money be paid to the appropriate planning authority – firstly for capital projects and then to supplement revenue funding – just like the “New Homes Bonus”?


The Election


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.


The 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.

A 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.


And 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.


The 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 it.


 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


If 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.


With all best regards for the Season and the coming year.


Councillor Paul Andrews


Malton Ward












































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