Plans to build houses on former railway site delayed over contamination fears
Harrogate Borough Council’s planning committee originally deferred the application for 53 homes at Knox Lane, Harrogate, in October last year following concern over contamination in the area. This is because some of the site was previously part of a railway that transported carriages between a gasworks and Bilton Junction.
But at a meeting this week, they were still not satisfied that the ground had been thoroughly investigated for toxic materials. Plans were first submitted by developer Jomast in April 2020 and included 73 homes, but this was reduced to 53. More than 300 residents had objected and some had also paid for their own experts to assess the site.
A report written by Harrogate Borough Council planning officer Andy Hough recommended the plans for approval and said since October’s deferral, the developer had provided another ground investigation report regarding contamination.
Mr Hough added it had been examined by the council’s environment protection team who had no objections to the development going ahead. The developer’s agent, Stephen Courcier, told councillors testing for contamination took place across the whole site, including the proximity of the former railway tracks, and showed no “significant levels” of contamination.
However, Conservative councillor for Boroughbridge, Robert Windass, said he was still “not happy” that sufficient testing was done.
Coun Windass said: “We need a proper survey to see what contaminants are there. We all know the railways at that time did pollute the ground terribly. I should imagine it is still there so I will not vote for this scheme until I know that the land is safe.”
Liberal Democrat councillor for Nidd Valley, Tom Watson, also said he was not satisfied with the latest report. He said: “Asbestos was used for installation on steam trains for 48 years and ballast often has asbestos present when dropping off trains. Tar from coal is toxic and carcinogenic.”
Residents have objected to the plans on a number of fronts, including the presence of badgers, lack of public transport and the narrow Knox Lane being unsuitable for traffic. An overhead electricity pylon would also run through the housing development if it were built.
This led Liberal Democrat councillor for Hookstone, Pat Marsh, to call for fresh studies on how this might impact on childhood leukemia for any future residents. She said: “I’ve not been given security that what’s on that site is safe to be developed.”
Councillors agreed to defer the plans for a second time, meaning it will now go to the new Harrogate & Knaresborough planning committee on North Yorkshire Council. Conditions were attached that will require more studies into contamination and the effects of living close to electricity pylons.