A BID to change who will decide on controversial plans to develop a superstore and petrol station on the Wentworth Street Car Park in Malton has been rejected.

A motion to have any plans voted on by the whole of Ryedale District Council rather than leave it to a planning committee were thrown out, but only by a margin of three votes.

Supporters of the move argued at a full council meeting it was not right to leave such a contentious issue to the council’s planning committee, where members of Malton and Norton were under-represented.

But opponents branded the move as an insult to members of the committee.

There was concern such a move could lead to more expensive legal arguments.

The motion was put forward by Coun Paul Andrews and seconded by Coun Lindsay Burr. It was defeated by 15 votes to 12.

Before the meeting, more than 30 people protested outside with placards saying “Save Our Shops”.

They included councillors, traders, residents and representatives of Fitzwilliam (Malton) Estate which has had a rival application to develop the livestock market approved by a planning inspector following a public inquiry.

The chairman, Coun Janet Frank, stressed the debate should not be about the merits of the application but should focus on whether it was appropriate for the full council to discuss the issue rather than the planning committee.

Coun Andrews said the plan would affect the whole district and its towns, not just Malton and Norton.

He said it would not be appropriate to leave the issue to the planning committee which had only one member from Malton and Norton while the two towns had a quarter of the population of Ryedale.

Coun Burr said as it involved selling one of the council’s assets, which would raise a considerable amount of money, it would be more democratic for all the district’s councillors to take the decision.

She said: “It is so important it is seen by the public that this process is as open and as transparent as possible.”

Meanwhile, the chairmanship of Ryedale District Council’s planning committee was called into question at the meeting of the full council.

Coun John Clark asked Coun John Raper if he had re-considered his position as chairman.

The chairman has come under fire from critics over the way he has handled applications such as the plan to develop Wentworth Street Car Park in Malton and a proposed large development in Kirkbymoorside.

But Coun Raper hit back, saying he was chairman until May 14 this year. That is when the full council would consider appointments to the different committees.

“It will be up to members to decide whether I continue or not. I am staying where I am and I see no reason why not,” he said.

When Coun Clark queried whether Coun Raper, who is a Conservative, had the confidence of the full council and the general public he retorted: “I cannot comment on the second one and I am certain I have a great deal of confidence from my own group.”