Tuesday’s inaugural hearing provided a pointed indication of what is likely to be one of the key items of debate across the month-long scrutiny period for Harrogate’s draft local plan.
The location of where the council will support the development of a new settlement dominated discussion in the morning’s legal compliance session. The current draft local plan advocates a development near the small village Green Hammerton.
Analysis of the site according to the draft sustainability appraisal – a key document detailing environmental, social and economic aspects of a development – concluded that it was large enough to deliver affordable housing and green space, adverse effects on the built and natural environment could be mitigated, while “substantial transport problems” could be solved.
Just five miles to the west of that is the rival Flaxby Park proposal.
Developers have submitted a planning application for the site which includes 2,750 homes, a retirement village, and two schools.
The selection of Green Hammerton as the draft new settlement saw representatives of Flaxby Park Ltd lodge gave a statement ahead of the commencement of hearings, stating the process was “unlawful”.
In a letter from Flaxby Park Ltd legal representatives Town Legal LLP, the firm cited “flawed assessment of reasonable alternatives, inadequate assessment of impacts, failure to take into account consultation responses; and material errors of fact” as reasons for opposing the current draft recommendation.
In response to that statement, council representatives categorically responded to the accusations, saying allegations that there was failures to “correct factual errors” in assessments was incorrect.
Among the specific allegations made by Flaxby Park Ltd were that the site was repeatedly assessed as agricultural land despite the developer stating it was a former golf course; and that council failed to take into account the possibility of a working rail station at the site.
In response, the council wrote that the site in its entirety is not a former golf course.
“While part of the site is a former golf course the question and scoring relates to the loss of agricultural land. The scoring assigned is therefore considered appropriate, and has been applied consistently for all site options,” council’s report states.
In response to the railway station allegation, the council replied that it “never doubted (Flaxby Park Ltd’s) desire to see a new rail station to serve their development”.
“However, the council has not been satisfied that this is a practical reality,” the response stated.
The debates and additional documentation will inform any modifications the inspector recommends be made to the plan at the end of the hearings.
Following that, another round of consultation is likely before the plan is adopted.
The selection of Green Hammerton as a new settlement location will be discussed again in more detail when the matter returns for further hearings on January 29.
Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporting Service