BATTLELINES have been drawn over the future shape of shopping in Malton as the two sides fighting to deliver retail developments in the town come head to head this week.

Members of Ryedale District Council’s planning committee will vote tomorrow (Thursday) on whether to approve applications from Fitzwilliam (Malton) Estates for the town’s livestock market and GMI Holbeck Land for Wentworth Street car park, which is owned by the council.

Planning officer Emma Lancaster says in her report the Wentworth Street site, which is recommended for approval and includes retail units, offices, petrol station and car park is a better option for the town.

She says: “The proposed development comprises retail development which has the potential to support the economic growth of the town.” Her report adds that the council’s decision on the plans should be deferred until it has gone before the Secretary of State, after which it will be approved if the Government does not intervene.

GMI Holbeck argues its project will create 230 permanent jobs and boost Malton’s role as a principal town.

Opponents say a supermarket there would have a determental effect on the town centre’s retail activity and deprive Malton of a large proportion of publically-controlled car parking.

Plans by the Estate, which include demolition of the existing livestock market and redevelopment for retail use together with a three-storey car park and public square, have been recommended for refusal.

But the Fitzwilliam Estate says that is the preferable site for retail development and offers ‘potential to form a natural extension to Malton town centre’.

“The proposal will provide a further retail anchor, drawing shoppers to Malton and helping to claw back existing retail expenditure leakage,” they add.

Ms Lancaster’s report on the Estate’s plan states: “The retention of a livestock market is considered to be of such importance that a redevelopment proposal for the existing site should not be allowed until proper provisions are in place for the market to be relocated.

“The applicants have failed to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the council, that the proposed development would be viable and therefore the scheme would be deliverable.”

Coun Paul Andrews, a leading opponent of developing Wentworth Street car park, said: “The agenda reports are biased in favour of putting a huge unwanted superstore on Wentworth Street car park. The Fitzwilliam Estate has for years taken rent from tenants in the town centre. It is therefore honour-bound to take all necessary steps to defend the interests of its tenants when faced with major threats. In my view this includes legal proceedings.”

He added: “I have been told that I may not be allowed to address the planning committee because two other Malton ward council members sit on the committee.

“The council’s political leaders know perfectly well that I am the councillor who has done the most work on mounting a challenge to their Wentworth Project and how capable I am of showing up the weaknesses in their flawed and biased arguments. They clearly want to silence opposition. This is an outrage.”

Coun Keith Knaggs, leader of Ryedale District Council, said the site inspections which took place this week were the best-attended by members of the planning committee for some years.

“We’ve been bombarded with information, or possibly misinformation,” he said.

“I hope for clear decisions on Thursday because this has been going on for a long time now and we really should try to relieve the uncertainty and move on.”