Estate launches legal fight over go-ahead for controversial store

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ONE of Yorkshire’s oldest property estates has launched a legal challenge against the Government’s decision to allow a hugely controversial supermarket development to go ahead.

Managers at the Fitzwilliam Estate confirmed yesterday that they are taking a two-pronged attack to prevent the multi-million pound superstore being built in the market town of Malton in North Yorkshire.

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has been served with a notice of claim for a judicial review after he decided not to call-in the planning permission for the superstore. The move will provide the incentive for his decision to be reconsidered, with the possibility of legal action if there is no change of heart from Mr Pickles.

The estate, which dates back 300 years and has property and land interests in both North and South Yorkshire, is also preparing proofs of evidence for a planning appeal after Ryedale District Council refused to grant permission for its own proposals to redevelop Malton’s livestock market. A hearing is due to be held before a planning inspector on September 11 and 12.

Council leader Keith Knaggs has maintained the supermarket development will be vital to rejuvenate the faltering local economy, and denied the scheme had been railroaded through by the authority’s planning committee.

But the Fitzwilliam Estate’s manager, Roddy Bushell, said: “The estate recognises that there is no-one else to continue the battle for the thousands of people who had made plain their wishes over both applications, and who felt deprived by a planning committee with a preconceived agenda. An obvious conflict of interest made a mockery of the democratic process.

“The large majority of townspeople have not changed their opinions, and nor has the estate. We all of us regard the future of Malton as too important to be a plaything of political and financial machinations. The estate will therefore be exploring all legal remedies to reverse the damage to Malton that we believe will result from these perverse and wrongful decisions.”

Campaigners including broadcaster Selina Scott, who lives near Malton, voiced grave concerns over the supermarket plan for the Wentworth Street carpark, which the council agreed to sell for a £5m windfall. Opponents fear the arrival of the superstore will spell the end for many of Malton’s independent traders, with Ms Scott warning the fabric of a centuries-old market town will be in danger of being destroyed.

The council gave planning permission in March for a Leeds-based developer, GMI Holbeck, to build the supermarket on the Wentworth Street car park. Mr Pickles then confirmed in June that he would not be calling in the application for a public inquiry, claiming “planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible”.

But Mr Bushell said: “The people of Malton, its traders and businesses, its town council, all those who fear for its future prosperity and unique character, can take heart that the planning battle is not over.”

However, GMI Holbeck has claimed that the supermarket development on the Wentworth Street carpark is vital to ensure that Malton can compete with rival retail destinations such as York and Scarborough. The firm said it put forward a “solid, technical case” for an “important opportunity for investment in Ryedale and Malton”. According to GMI Holbeck, as much as £600,000 is spent each week on supermarket shopping outside of the Ryedale area by residents taking their custom to rival towns and cities.

It emerged this month that plans had been drawn up to move the livestock market from its present site to a new location off the A64 bypass near Eden Camp. A seven-and-a-half acre pocket of land has been donated, but Mr Bushell maintained the Fitzwilliam Estate cannot facilitate any relocation, which would have to be overseen by auctioneers and local farmers.