Housing controversy: Harrogate council may face legal challenge

Housing development plans for the whole Harrogate district may face a legal challenge from residents.

Members of Hampsthwaite Action Group opposed to the nature of housing developments.
Members of Hampsthwaite Action Group opposed to the nature of housing developments.

Hampsthwaite Action Group say they disagree not only with plans which they say will swamp their village but with Harrogate Borough Council's whole approach to growing numbers of housing developments.Terry Mounsey, chair of Hampsthwaite Action Group, first raised the issue of a legal challenge in the near future at a public meeting in the village earlier in the week.The final straw for angry villagers appears to be the council's intention to stick to its current numbers for new housing in the district despite the recent central government housing White Paper changing the way numbers are calculated.The new system identitied that 395 homes were needed in the district every year between 2016-2026, compared to 669 proposed by HBC in their developing Local Plan.

Though Leeds now intends to reduce housing expansion, Harrogate says it has no option but to stick to its current plans as the local economy expands and the demand for housing continues to grow..

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Legal challenge: Residents' aims

Villagers said the aim of the legal complaint would be to challenge Harrogate Borough Council in terms of the process at the meeting on the basis of the following:The procedures of their planning policy.The numbers of house they are suggesting need to be built. The hope is this would take place alongside other anti-housing groups across the district. Terry Mounsey, chairman of Hands off Hampsthwaite Village told the Harrogate Advertiser: "Harrogate planners seem determined to go ahead with their plan to wreck our dales villages, despite the new government white paper and our legitimate and considerable objections,we feel our only course of action is to mount a legal challenge."This would question their numbers and the allocation to villages as well as the process used in determining the district plan."After the public meeting A leading cabinet member of Harrogate Borough Council says locations for new housing were "challenging" after facing worried residents this week.

Council admits housing sites are 'challenging'Talking after addressing a public meeting called on Tuesday night by Hampsthwaite Action Group, Coun Rebecca Burnett, Harrogate Borough Council's cabinet member for planning, acknowledged the unpopularity of new housing developments.Coun Burnett told the Harrogate Advertiser: "These are the most challenging sites the council has ever looked at."We have the same disagreements with many other communities. We have a difficult job to do."But I made the point the council does have an obligation to make plans for new housing."Everyone believes in the principle of more housing but no one likes the details of where the sites are."The council is still making the final decisions for the new Local Plan and we are listening to what residents' points."

Villagers' anger at the meetingChaired by Hampsthwaite Parish council, more than 200 people packed the village's Memorial Hall for the meeting.The mood was one of reasoned anger over plans for new housing.Helen Brown, vice chair of Hampsthwaite Parish Council, claimed the planned developments could increase potentially the size of the village by 75%.And she said the Parish council would now be undertaking to produce a Neighbourhood Plan which would be a robust, community led guide to what developments might take place in the future. Coun Rebecca Burnett faced 90 minutes of robust questioning with the occasional heckling.She said she understood the complaints and it had been a "good meeting" but the council had a job to do."It was a good meeting. I thought it went well. The residents had a clear agenda about the housing plans for Hampsthwaite."They were very well-informed and they feel strongly. They are keen to see the sites in their village out of the Local Plan."I explained how we make the decisions about the numbers of houses required and where they should go.

'Council has a duty to allow more new housing'

"But I also explained that the council does have to meet the need for higher numbers of houses."But many of the villagers argued that current housing developments in Hampsthwaite were not going to be affordable housing, in any case.The meeting ended with a passionate plea from David Collett, chair of Hampsthwaite Parish council, who said to great cheers that in the face of these enormous challenges the village must not back down.He said: "There will be no surrender - we have to fight on."