Make your views known: don't let Ryedale turn Malton/Norton into a little city - 15th July 2009

 Like many planning documents, the Ryedale Local Development Framework (or local plan) is not the most exciting document to read, but it has profound consequences, as it determines how much and where all new development should take place for the next 15 years. It is now up for consultation. So if you don’t like what the Council has in store for us, you’d better go to one of the consultation sessions and say so now – before it is too late.

This local plan is more controversial than any I have known before. Its underlying  purpose is to transform the district into something completely different. The central aim is to “grow the towns”, particularly Malton and Norton, into something like a little city, with a huge increase in population and a range of new big supermarkets. These new grandiose schemes of Ryedale’s over-mighty leadership do not accept the simple premise that Ryedale is essentially a country district, with working villages, and five country market towns: instead, they want to convert Ryedale into an ossified theme park for visiting by city dwellers, comprising farmland for ramblers, pretty villages which have no room for growth and little vitality, and a single “district capital”, namely Malton, which will end up looking rather like Monks Cross.

I will not repeat my views on new supermarkets in this article: I will deal with the proposed expansion of housing within Malton/Norton.

Up until now, Ryedale has operated a “dispersed” policy in regard to new development. The essence of this is that every town or village is given “development limits” where new houses can be built. This has worked well in the past, and allowed for a concentration of new development within the market towns without putting villages into straitjackets which inhibit growth.

All this is going to change. Three options have been put forward for consultation. These include the current “dispersed option”, but the consultation document does not invite views on which of the three options people would prefer: instead the document only invites views on the Council’s preferred option.

The Council’s preferred option is to concentrate 50% of all new housing development within Malton/Norton, and to distribute the rest in different proportions to the other market towns and ten “service villages” (Amotherby and Swinton, Ampleforth, Beadlam and Nawton, Hovingham, Rillington, Sherburn, Sheriff Hutton, Slingsby, Staxton and Willerby and Thornton Dale).

50% of new housing equates to 1,500 houses if only 200 are built every year within the 15 year plan period, and to 2,625, if 350 houses a year are built. The latter is more than the number of houses in Malton at the moment.

The community is important in a country district, and it is good practice to ensure that all newcomers can be assimilated by their village or town communities. You don’t have to be a genius to see that this grandiose scheme will result in an influx of a large number of people in such a relatively short time span that the Malton/Norton community will never be able to assimilate them.

200 or 350 new houses a year is not too many to assimilate, if new development is shared between different communities, and this would happen if the current “dispersed option” is maintained.

At the consultation session I went to, the Council was asking people to mark with a red sticker which of the three options they would prefer – even though this is not allowed for in the consultation document itself. So please go to the consultation meetings, get a copy of the document and answer the questions the Council is putting to you. Be sure you also make your views known on which of the three options you prefer – whether the Council invites you to do so or not.

NB: The consultation I went to referred to above was at Amotherby Village Hall. This had the paper for the red stickers with the three options displayed in a position which was reasonably prominent. Most of the red stickers had been fixed to the "dispersed" option.

Following the publication of this article, I visited the exhibition at the Milton Rooms, and tried to find a similar paper with the three options for the red stickers. I searched in vain, but eventually did find it: believe me, it was well hidden!

The room was arranged with display stands joined together in a semi-circle.There were plans on both sides of each stand, and another row of stands at each side behind them. In front of the horseshoe, there was the main display, and this included a number of prominent stands mainly concerning proposals for Malton/Norton.

The plans displayed at the back of the stands in the semi-circle comprised proposals for developement in the villages. The paper with the three options and the red stickers was eventually found on the back of one of the semicircle stands well towards the back of the room, where it was certainly not at all prominent, and was between two sets of village plans. There was no sign to direct the public to this notice, and it was quite clear that the Council had absolutely no intention of drawing this to public attention, so as to obtain a true idea of public opinion.

A letter published in the Gazette on 6th August complains that the writer could not find this paper.

One wonders how one can consider the Milton Rooms exhibition as a true consultation, when the display gave no prominence to obtaining the views of the public on one of the main issues.

Regrettably, when it comes to the LDF, very little seems to be straightforward at Ryedale House!!




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