GMI Holbeck, potential developer of Wentworth Street car park, puts forward its case for the Wentworth Project.

THE Wentworth Street site is undeniably the best site for the foodstore that Malton needs. It has been THE town centre car park for more than 50 years. And it needs to remain Malton’s town centre car park – not least for the customers who frequent Malton’s wonderful range of independent shops.

The Wentworth Project gives people the free parking they have long campaigned for (up to three hours’ with more than 60 more car parking spaces than there are now). Long stay parking also remains, with the council’s general charges applied.

We know that there is much support for a new foodstore to give choice on the whole range of goods sold by Morrisons – and of a similar size. We know that a huge number of local people drive to York and Scarborough to do their weekly shop and buy competitively priced fuel but would rather not have to do so. We know this because people have told us: in detailed professionally-conducted surveys, in open consultation, and in our many interactions with local residents and business people.

Only the Wentworth Project can provide what the evidence shows is required to bring more custom into Malton and Ryedale. Higher footfall will then bring more quality investment (for example to the livestock market site) by popular high street brands when the market has been successfully relocated.

We also know from our work with retailers over many years that the success of a town centre relies on its ability to appeal to all parts of the community. Not just those who are able to afford the luxury of leisurely visits into town. In fact, the vast majority of people cannot afford to live in this way – they have neither the income nor the time.

In these economically-challenged times, many people are struggling financially. People need to be able to shop for basics and fill up their cars at competitive prices and if the opportunity for this is not provided in Malton, consumers will continue to travel elsewhere to obtain it. Which also means that they will do the rest of their shopping elsewhere – and not in Malton’s town centre.

Malton and Ryedale families also need more jobs. The Wentworth Project will provide about 230 permanent additional jobs of which many will be suitable for young people.

A new food store on the Wentworth Street site will offer shoppers the regular food and household items they want. With the improved pedestrian linkages and road crossings, even more shoppers using the free three-hour car park as their base will also shop in the town centre. As they do in Thirsk, Beverley and Otley, similar market towns with a successful retail balance.

And bearing in mind that only ONE per cent of local residents actually do their weekly shop in the smaller and independent stores of Malton and Norton, linked trips will offer very positive benefits in the form of increased retail spend in the town centre.

Developers GMI Holbeck Land has a reputation for sensitive development within communities. Nothing says this more than its appointment of award-winning architecture practice Panter Hudspith (which has designed buildings in heritage sites such as Lincoln, York, Beverley, Oxford and Cambridge).

The Fitzwilliam Estate has put forward an application to convert Malton’s working livestock market into a retail centre with a foodstore far too small to draw ordinary shoppers back from York and Scarborough, and with no fuel. This is a proposal full of lost opportunity, including:

• Loss of the livestock market, with apparently no offer to date to assist with relocation.

• Loss of provision of the only edge of centre site which can offer the shop unit specifications to draw in the household names and clothing brands that Malton needs.

• Loss of the opportunity for the size of foodstore that Malton needs, one that would reduce people’s shopping migration to York and Scarborough and be the catalyst for further regeneration of Malton’s centre Let us not forget that there is still the prospect of a large superstore on the greenfield showfield site, unconnected to the town centre and in the ownership of the Fitzwilliam Trust. The Fitzwilliam Trust as landowner (formal objectors already to the Wentworth Project but surprisingly not to the Fitzwilliam Estate proposal) is heavily rumoured to have engaged a professional team to prepare its out-of-town superstore planning application with its bound-in development partner.

This scheme is ready and waiting in the wings if the Wentworth Project is refused.

Our point is this: Malton needs a new foodstore. Whether it gets one adjoining the town centre, or in the end has an out-of-town scheme on the showfield site foisted onto it is down to the decision made by the planning committee tomorrow.