Ryedale Council looks set to abandon its plan to turn a car park in Malton into a supermarket which has been dividing the town since 2007.
The council’s leader said the authority had reviewed its position on the project in the light of the Government’s spending plans and the implications for local Government funding.
Councillors voted to renew the authority’s contract with developer GMI Holbeck to turn the Wentworth Street car park into supermarket last year.
But some members criticised the way the vote was carried out and successfully campaigned for the decision to be reviewed at an extraordinary council meeting on Thursday night.
However, in a surprise move, the council’s leadership has indicated it will push for the development deal to be torn up.
Council leader Linda Cowling said it was the “right time” to consider ending the deal in the light of “market conditions” and the future direction of council funding.
She said: “Ryedale District Council has a duty to get the best consideration for all their assets and this is what we have been trying to achieve.
“I now intend to take time to consider the options available to maximise the use of this strategic underutilised asset.”
In a pointed reference to the division the Wentworth Street car park plan has caused, Coun Cowling added: “I am aware that this has caused differences of opinion with Malton Town Council and Fitzwilliam (Malton) Estate and I look forward to the opportunity for us to work together for the benefit of Ryedale.”
Thursday’s night’s extraordinary meeting of the council was due to see some members try and overturn the previous decision to renew the development contract.
They had argued that the first time the matter was considered it was at the end of a meeting and some members had left.
Coun Cowling’s decision represents a remarkable shift of position for the council which has steadfastly refused to scrap the plan despite considerable opposition and challenges that have cost the council hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal costs.
Last year the proposals for the Wentworth Street supermarket were quashed in the High Court after they were challenged by local landowner the Fitzwilliam Malton Estate.
Three years earlier, Fitzwilliam also successfully challenged a refusal by the council to grant planning permission for shop units on the town’s livestock market.
Fitzwilliam has its own proposal to build a Booth’s supermarket on the livestock market and has argued the council’s dogged pursuit of the Wentworth Street plan has hindered its ability to get the project off the ground.
Nobody was available from the Fitzwilliam Malton Estate to comment today.
Writing last year, estate manager Roddy Bushell said planning inspectors had made clear the car park should not be used for a supermarket.
“The question is whether the council decides to stop trying now or whether it continues to spend public money battling to achieve the impossible and the undesirable,” he said.