WENTWORTH Street car park was first earmarked as a site for a supermarket four years ago.

In a report commissioned by Ryedale District Council entitled ‘A Strategy for Malton Town Centre’ published in February 2008, the car park was highlighted as one of four key sites earmarked for future development.

Consultants WSP Group said the car park was chronically under-used and claimed 81 per cent of the site lay empty.

Three options were laid on the table for the site, all including building affordable housing. But the consultants “strongly” recommended building a supermarket and new flats.

The vision for Malton’s livestock market was unveiled by the Fitzwilliam Estate in 2007 with initial plans for a supermarket, six retail outlets, 51 flats and four houses on the two-acre site.

Retail specialists Roger Tym Associates produced a report for the Estate which said Malton had a ‘healthy town centre’ but noted that there was scope for expansion for businesses, especially in the fashion and clothing sector and the town needed to attract customers who shopped at retail parks in York.

With two major proposals on the table, battlelines were quickly drawn with arguments raging over which development provided the best option to stem the flow of shoppers’ spending outside Ryedale.

Members of Ryedale District Council voted in August 2010 to put Wentworth Street car park on the market after they were told there was a healthy interest by seven potential development companies.

They also heard the scheme was likely to generate £5 million to be used to support new jobs and investment in business park developments, leisure facilities and affordable housing across Ryedale.

The decision led to a protest march through the streets of Malton and a petition, signed by more than 2,000 people questioning where they were expected to park if the sale went ahead.

Councillors voted to sell the Wentworth Street car park the following November with Leeds-based GMI Holbeck Land revealed as the developer behind the plan to build a supermarket and petrol station.

The Fitzwilliam Estate unveiled revised plans for the livestock market site to include a medium-sized high quality food store and smaller retail units last March, with the market expected to move to an alternative site.

With both planning applications submitted to Ryedale District Council, it was revealed that East Riding Council would be brought in to assess and make recommendations on plans for a store on Wentworth Street car park because the district council would be making the decision on the scheme on its own land.

However, a petition of 2,000 signatures was also handed to the London offices of Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government, by protesters asking him to ‘call in’ for a decision on the planning application as they believe Ryedale District Council faces a conflict of interest due to the windfall it will earn if the car park is sold.

Decision day is now here and tomorrow councillors will vote on the proposals for Wentworth Street car park and plans to develop the cattle market site.

Here both sides put forward their arguments as to why their plan is the best option for the future of Malton.