RYEDALE District Council has been accused of being “deaf to public opinion” following a protest march against plans to sell Wentworth Street car park.

Claims have also been made that the council used the same consultants as a leading supermarket chain to investigate a town centre strategy for Malton.

Coun Paul Andrews, ward councillor, told the Gazette that it had emerged last week that consultants Atisreal had been engaged by Sainsbury’s while the company was investigating the purchase of Wentworth Street car park.

He added that at the same time, Atisreal was advising the district council on a town centre strategy and had recommended a superstore for the car park.

“Council members were not advised of this possible conflict of interests,” Coun Andrews said.

“The council had previously relied on reports by Roger Tym and Partners (RTP) for advice on town centre shopping and it is not known why the council chose to go to other consultants.”

Coun Andrews said Atisreal had relied on data and calculations provided by two previous reports by Roger Tym and Partners dating back to 2006 and 2008.

“However, RTP’s 2008 report dismissed Wentworth Street car park as not ‘representing a short-term development opportunity’ and instead gave a ringing endorsement to proposals for the development of the cattle market, comprising a 16,000 sq ft floor space Waitrose-type food store, and seven other shops.”

Coun Andrews said: “It is quite clear that the council’s political administration knows perfectly well that a new superstore or supermarket on Wentworth Street car park now will result in an over-provision of convenience shopping capacity which is bound to damage Malton’s historic town centre.

“They are deaf to public opinion and power has gone to their heads.”

Janet Waggott, chief executive of Ryedale District Council, said: “Coun Andrews’ allegation that a consultant has provided professional advice to Ryedale District Council in circumstances where they have an apparent conflict of interest is unfounded.

“The consultants are professionally qualified experts who must comply with their professional code of conduct and are duty bound to give their independent professional opinion. Contractually they must declare any conflict of interest they have.

“The allegations must not be allowed to distract councillors and members of the public from proper consideration of all the relevant issues and making a proper decision in the public interest.

“This is a real opportunity for councillors of Ryedale District Council to debate the issue of whether or not to proceed with a sale of Wentworth Street car park, Malton.”

More than 200 protesters marched through the streets of Malton on Thursday in protest at moves to sell Wentworth Street car park.

Business and shop owners, local councilors and members of the public joined the march to show opposition to the decision which they say will have a devastating effect on Malton town centre.

Starting at the car park, the protesters carried placards and chanted ‘Malton’s car park is not for sale’, as they walked through the streets, finishing at the Old Town Hall where various speakers addressed the crowd.

‘Sale would fund wishlists’

Linda Cowling, Conservative district councillor for Pickering West, adds her voice to the debate on the proposed sale of Wentworth Street car park

I HAVE followed the arguments against the sale of Wentworth Street car park over the last weeks with more than a passing interest. The abuse and attempted bullying carried out against the councillors who voted in favour of the sale is unbelievable. Anyone is entitled to disagree, but personal attacks on councillors and their families are going too far. One councillor has had abuse shouted at him while in a restaurant in Malton; another’s young daughter was very upset after an incident in Malton.

It has been said that Malton does not need another supermarket as it will damage existing shops, but it is apparently OK as long as the supermarket is not built on Wentworth Street car park.

Another argument is the loss of car parking, but many of the proposals provide more car parking than the existing site, so then the argument became the loss of long stay parking. Do you really believe that the council has not considered the effect on the town of the loss of long-stay parking?

A full review of parking in Malton will be undertaken if Wentworth Street is sold in order that the needs of the town are fully met from existing and future provision of parking.

Likewise, the need for farmers’ parking on market days will be addressed. The cattle market is a big contributor to Malton’s economy, the council would not do anything which would have an adverse effect on the farming community.

But I think it has to be said that it is unlikely that the cattle market will survive past 2012 when Fitzwilliam Estate is entitled to invoke a break clause in the lease. We are already looking at the possibility of relocating the cattle market to an improved multi-use site which could become an even bigger asset to the farming community – but funds will be needed to do that.

Then, of course, the critics said that Ryedale District Council would be throwing the voluntary organisations which occupy Community House out onto the street. The Citizens Advice Bureau and Ryedale Voluntary Action are major contributors in helping to deliver some of the council’s statutory services. That is why we grant-aid them. Ryedale District Council could not do the work which they do as well as or as cost effectively as they do it. These two voluntary organisations are absolutely essential to Ryedale, as are the many voluntary organisations who are too numerous to list here.

And before it is mentioned, yes the Scouts and the Rifle Club will also be well looked after if the moaning minnies in Malton are not successful in stopping this exciting development going ahead.

Denys Townsend’s attack on Ryedale council leader Keith Knaggs is totally unjustified. It is Keith’s vision and ability which has overseen the transformation of the district council from a ‘do nothing’ council to a ‘can do’ council. How many years was the sports facility on the drawing board before he united the council in giving funding to the project? After being initially asked to grant the ridiculous sum of £3 million out of council capital, it was Keith who settled on the sum of £1.5 million. There is life outside Malton you know, the rest of Ryedale does exist and much of it is heartily sick of hearing Malton moaning. For someone who sets himself up as a civic leader in Malton, Mr Townsend is horribly negative. Ryedale District Council is damned if it does spend its capital reserves and damned if it doesn’t. Of course the leader of the council has a wishlist for the district – every town and village in Ryedale has a wishlist. Usually all that is missing is the money to pay for it. This brings me back to Wentworth Street car park.

Much of Ryedale District Council’s time and money has been spent on projects to enhance and improve Malton. If we can sell Wentworth Street car park, without any harm to the town, for what is a very large sum of money so that we can reinvest that money in Ryedale, why wouldn’t we?

Emma Brooksbank would do well to remember that one man does not run Ryedale council – it has 30 members – 26 of whom are doing their level best for the district. The other four seem hell-bent on destroying the council which you elected. The rest of Ryedale does not envy Malton, but it is getting tired of it having all the attention of the district council.

The Fitzwilliam Estate would oppose the sale of Wentworth Street car park for a supermarket, wouldn’t it? It has competing sites which it would like to sell.

How Paul Andrews dare describe Keith Knaggs as arrogant and divisive is totally beyond me – I thought I had misread and he was describing himself.

Of course Keith is the most influential member of the council – the members elected him to be our leader. And no, it was not unanimous, but it was a majority. That is democracy for you.

Keith has only been the leader of the council for the last three-and-a-half years – so who was responsible for all the procrastination before that, Coun Andrews? The council has achieved more in the last three-and-a-half years than in the previous 20.