Buffer zone plan to protect world heritage site from development

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A BUFFER zone is planned to be extended around a Yorkshire world heritage site to protect it from development, following the publication of new national planning rules which critics say could impinge on the countryside.

Harrogate Borough Council plans to create the safety zone around Studley Royal Park, which includes the ruins of Fountains Abbey, as part of its controversial proposals to build 390 homes a year throughout the area up to 2023-24.

Coun Richard Cooper, cabinet member for planning, transport and economic development, said the zone would simply be an “added layer of protection”, with the aim of safeguarding the heritage of the area, which was one of the first World Heritage sites in the UK.

The Yorkshire Post has learnt, however, that the proposed buffer zone would extend right across nearby Ripon, effectively splitting the city in two.

Coun Mick Stanley, the outgoing mayor of Ripon, said: “Sensitive development of Ripon has been taking place already.

“I cannot understand the point of driving this finger through Ripon.

“It would make far more sense to me to have a much more narrow buffer zone.”

The plans for the buffer zone are to go out for public consultation as part of Harrogate Borough Council’s proposed Local Development Framework (LDF).

Critics have claimed the house-building proposals are the biggest encroachment on the district’s green spaces for decades, with a significant proportion of the proposed sites selected by the council on green-field land.

Planning bosses say they have been hindered in where to choose the sites owing to a lack of vacant brown-field land.

The results of the urban and rural areas consultation are due to be published by the council shortly.

Coun Cooper denied that the buffer zone was in response to the Government’s new planning guidance, which has slimmed more than 1,000 pages down to around 50 and will focus on a “presumption in favour of sustainable development”.

“We want to do all we can to safeguard parts of our national heritage,” he said.

“This will be an added layer of protection and we do that in many cases already.”