Ryeview – September 2003

Do we need a Conference Centre?

John Clark writes…

First published: September 2003 – Gazette & Herald

Something you need as opposed to want is something you cannot really do without. I have never heard anyone say we need a Conference Centre in Ryedale. It certainly isn’t something we cannot really do without!

This is not the view of Ryedale District Council. RDC has just confirmed its planning decision to allow the building of a Conference Centre. It is to be built off the Malton road out of Pickering.

Recently I was asked the following question “Can environmental objectives be reconciled with economic objectives?” Many years ago my answer to this would have been “of course!” Now I’m not so certain that reconciliation is possible. The present government has a policy for Sustainable Development. There are four pillars to this policy.

  • Social progress that meets the needs of everyone
  • Environmental protection
  • Prudent use of natural resources
  • High and stable levels of economic growth and employment

Labour’s Sustainable Development policy not only seeks to reconcile economic and environmental objectives it also seeks to introduce a “social need” content.

All heavy-going! What does it mean? It means the government is conning us into the belief that we can have our cake and eat it! Can Ryedale reconcile economics and the environment? Yes! – but not on a cake and eat it basis. Ryedale must decide on the environmental objectives first. Once these are in place then the economic objectives can be aimed for.

Ryedale wants to reduce its flooding, preserve biodiversity, improve air quality and achieve other environmental targets. One clear step in this direction would be a reduction in car use. This can only be achieved by a substantial increase in public transport.

How does the proposed Conference Centre fit in with sustainable development?

If built it would not be on a public transport link. Virtually all the users would have to come by car. Even the long-distance ones would be unlikely to travel by public transport to York or Malton and then finish their journey by hire car. Thus it fails on three of the four Tests. It is not a “need”. There is no “environmental protection” and “the use of natural resources is far from prudent”. Only one pillar is left standing “economic growth and employment”. The cost would be environmental damage. It is unsustainable. The only argument put forward is an economic one “do we want our market towns to be vibrant or do we want them to stagnate or die?” No one is arguing against the economic objective. However it must not be paid for by the environment.

As far as I’m aware no Environmental Impact Assessment has been carried out. Not only is the environment being ignored but also the “economic cost” of the environmental damage. Some costs may include:

Increased number of cars in Pickering leading to more pollution and an increased shortage of car parking spaces.

  • Increased use of fossil fuels contributing to climate change which in turn appears to cause increased flooding in Ryedale
  • Increased car traffic in Ryedale which in turn leads to environmental safety and financial costs on the A64

Very few people connect future flooding with increased traffic levels let alone with the development of a conference centre. Similarly the level of traffic on the A 64 is seen just as a problem rather than the result of our planning decisions.

What is the solution? If we want (need?) a conference centre then the order should be increasing public transport followed by a subsequent decrease in-car use.

Then build a Conference Centre at an integrated traffic point. The increase in public transport could include re-instating the Malton / Pickering rail link. With a “halt” at the conference centre of course!

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