ACTION groups battling draft plans for the creation of a new village near Harrogate claim the local authority’s process has stalled, leading to a “vacuum” which developers could take advantage of.
Harrogate Borough Council wants to create a new settlement of up to 3,000 homes near the village of Green Hammerton as part of its Local Plan, a long-term planning blueprint.
But the Keep The Hammertons Green Action Groups have written to every borough councillor, calling on the authority to submit the plans to Housing Secretary James Brokenshire as a matter of urgency, so they can undergo public scrutiny from a Government planning inspector.
Chris Eaton, co-chairman of the Keep The Hammertons Green Action Groups, said: “Towards the end of last year there was a lot of urgency to conclude the draft Local Plan, over fears of potential central government intervention.
“Harrogate Borough Council was under pressure but rushed it through in time to start the formal consultation in January.
“However, since then, it’s gone quiet and the April deadline to submit the Plan to the Secretary of State is long passed and activity on the Local Plan appears to have stalled.”
Mr Eaton said the action groups were ready to challenge the plan before a Government inspector, saying the former Flaxby Golf Club near Knaresborough was a better site for a new settlement and an Examination in Public was “the right forum for this matter to be settled”.
He said: “Until this happens there is a vacuum in the planning system and while we wait for the final version of the Plan, opportunistic developers are submitting outline applications.”
He said this included an outline application by the Commercial Estates Group (CEG) submitted in June. The proposal would see 3,000 homes built near Green Hammerton, as well as other infrastructure including five hectares of offices. parks, sports pitches, allotments and road and rail improvements.
The letter to councillors urges them to suspend a decision on such applications, pending finalisation of the Local Plan.
Speaking in June, Steve McBurney, Head of Planning North at CEG, said the development would be of high quality and designed using ‘garden village’ principles, adding that it was “viable and deliverable and is the most sustainable solution in accordance with the Council’s emerging Local Plan”.
Harrogate currently falls short of the national requirement to have enough land set aside for five years of development. The Local Plan would earmark enough land for a further 14,000 homes to be built across the borough by 2035.
No-one from Harrogate Borough Council was available for comment yesterday, but previously, the authority has said that the Green Hammerton and Cattal area had been identified as the most appropriate location for a new settlement to help to achieve the required growth.
Councillor Rebecca Burnett, cabinet member for planning, had said: “The Local Plan - alongside our economic growth strategy - has the potential to deal with several major issues facing our district. Unless we create new housing and employment opportunities, we risk losing generations of young people to other towns and cities because Harrogate remains unaffordable.”