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Fears have been raised that one of Yorkshire’s property hotspots could become a “free-for-all” for developers after a planning inspector warned thousands more homes need to be built in the coming years.

In a letter the inspector warns more than 4,500 homes – in addition to almost 4,000 already planned for – could be needed in the spa town of Harrogate and surrounding district up to 2024.

The Stray in Harrogate

The Stray in Harrogate

Harrogate Borough Council now plans to hold an extraordinary meeting to decide whether to withdraw its local plan, which sets out sites suitable for future development, which has been years in the making.

The inspector, Phillip Ware, made his comments in the middle of a hearing discussing the plan. It has now been postponed after council officers felt the gulf between its predictions and those of the inspector was too wide to be quickly resolved. It now faces having to draw-up a new plan offering extra sites for housing and jobs.

Coun Helen Flynn, the council’s Lib Dem shadow member for finance and resources said: “This plan was six years in the making, so it really does beggar belief that this has happened.

“The fact that it is now effectively a developers’ “free-for-all” as we do not have an adopted plan, I know is of great concern to many residents of the borough.

“At the extraordinary council meeting to be held on 14 May, we will be asking how much this fiasco has cost the local taxpayers and how those who are accountable should act in this matter.”

She fears that without a plan in place the council will find it harder to prevent developers trying to build on sites it wishes to protect because it cannot demonstrate it has suitable alternative sites for development to meet predicted housing demands.

Mr Ware says the authority is seeking to provide 390 extra homes a year in its sites and policies document (DPD), which together with another blueprint forms its local plan. However Mr Ware says other assessments have put the figure at between 862 and 1,086. Which, using even the most conservative of the estimates, would mean a shortfall of 472 homes a year and over 4,500 extra homes over 10 years.

Along with nearly 4,000 already planned this could mean building over 8,500 homes across the district over the next decade.

Mr Ware says: “It is accepted by the council that the submitted DPD falls considerably short of meeting the objectively assessed need.

“The DPD seeks to provide 390 dwellings per annum, in line with the Core Strategy, as opposed to the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (2011) projections (sub-national and employment led projections) of 862 and 1,086.

“This is a very substantial shortfall.”

Dave Allenby, the council’s head of planning and development, said: “Accepting the Inspector’s advice (to withdraw the current plan) gives us the opportunity to reassess housing provision across the district.”

He said work would have to be done with partners to show roads, schools and other infrastructure was in place to be able to deliver the homes.

“The council will now need to prepare a new plan that looks at the possibility of accommodating a significant increase in housing and employment growth if the concerns expressed by the Inspector are to be addressed.”