Opponents force delay in plans to build new homes across area

A WAVE of opposition to plans to build thousands of new homes in towns and villages across the Harrogate district has led to the controversial strategy having to be delayed.

More than 1,000 people have responded to Harrogate Council's proposals to build thousands of new homes and 921 in rural areas alone over the next 14 years, to address a critical lack of affordable housing across the district.

Some of the proposals, particularly around Pateley Bridge and Pannal where hundreds of new homes could be constructed, have sparked an outcry from residents.

Now following the scale of the public response to one of the largest consultations ever undertaken in the area, the council says it is delaying moving forward with proposals for urban sites – originally scheduled to take place in June – for five months, so it can effectively consider residents' comments.

Coun Jim Clark, cabinet member for planning, transport and economic development, said: "We had such a good response that it will take us longer to collect all the responses than we first thought and we want more time to consider it.

"In some ways these were quite controversial and provoked a big response but that is the whole point – we want to hear what people have to say. We were expecting a pretty robust reaction and I welcome that.

"I wasn't surprised at the response because I know people care very much about their environment and it is a big issue.

"We do need a lot more housing, particularly affordable housing and it is equally important we get it in the right places.

"We are carefully considering all the various aspects."

The plans which have attracted the most severe criticism are proposals to build 163 homes around Pateley Bridge and Bewerley.

Geoffrey Linehan, chairman of Bewerley Parish Council, said: "We welcome the fact that the council is taking its time over this and will study the responses. I feel there has been a sea change in their attitude over the past few months.

"At first we felt like we were being obstructed and our views were being suppressed. Lines of communication seem to be much clearer now and there is much more transparency.

"We are not against affordable homes and know there is a need in the area but we want to get it right and for there to be the right number.

"At the moment these houses are in the wrong place and the numbers are too high – with this extra time and information I hope they can come to the right conclusion in the end."

The results of the rural consultation are set to be published by the council in the spring, with the urban consultation around Harrogate, Knaresborough and Ripon, now due to take place in the autumn.

Harrogate Council has set a housing growth target of more than 5,000 new homes – 390 for each year throughout the district up to 2023-24 – in a bid to provide homes at a price tag which is affordable to local people.

The Harrogate district falls within the so-called Golden Triangle along with York and Leeds and includes some of the most sought-after postcodes in the North for househunters.

The average property price in the district for the first three months of this year was 277,332, which represented a 14.7 per cent increase compared with the same period in 2009.

A detached property in the Harrogate district costs, on average, nearly 400,000.

The housebuilding targets to provide more affordable accommodation have been set out in the Harrogate district core strategy, which was adopted by the council in February of last year.

The council has stressed that the strategy strikes a "good balance" between providing much-needed affordable homes while making sure that the district is not swamped by new housing developments.