CONTROVERSIAL plans to build hundreds of homes and a business park will help a district compete in the global economy, a councillor has said.

Separate proposals for 218 homes in Norton and an office complex in Old Malton have been backed by Ryedale District Council's planning committee, which last week gave permission for the developments.

Members of the committee said Ryedale needed to set its sights further afield than York or Leeds and compete with businesses around the world.

Redworth Construction Ltd wants to convert buildings and barns at Manor Farm, in Old Malton, into one and two-storey office buildings.

The plans attracted a number of objections, and protestor John Marshall, of Old Malton, said: "This is an application for a quite unsuitable industrial estate on much too large a scale for the village.

"The future of that site will either enhance the area or damage it irrevocably.

"It is a wonderful opportunity for a development of real merit but this would be calamitous."

But Malton councillor Keith Knaggs said: "All recent studies show quite clearly that there is a lack of modern quality office accommodation in Malton and Norton.

"If you can't have a development like this next to Ryedale's largest urban area, I don't know where you can have one.

"We live in a global economy these days. The competition we are dealing with is not down the road in York or Leeds, it is in Shanghai or Hong Kong."

He described as nonsense a proposed amendment that would have prevented the new offices from opening on Saturdays.

Redrow Homes wants to build 218 homes in Scarborough Road, Norton. Almost half the properties will be designated as affordable housing.

The company has offered almost £500,000 to prevent flooding and extend the town primary school when the houses are built.

Malton councillor Paul Andrews criticised the proposals. Speaking at the planning meeting, he said: "The committee is setting a very dangerous precedent indeed.

"In future, every village with a high profile location will no longer be safe from having residential development foisted upon it."