Local Plan: Debate underway on blueprint which will shape Harrogate over next 20 years

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Consultation on the crucial document which will shape Harrogate’s future in coming decades has commenced.

The series of hearings scrutinising Harrogate’s draft local plan, which presents a long-term vision of where in the region thousands of homes and businesses will be built, started on Tuesday.

Future: Scrutiny on the plan which will shape Harrogate's future kicked off this week.

Future: Scrutiny on the plan which will shape Harrogate's future kicked off this week.

In front of a room packed with legal representatives, developers and local residents, government-appointed planning inspector Richard Schofield outlined the three outcomes that could arise from the hearings:

- That the plan would be found sound without modification (a “unique” and unlikely outcome, Mr Schofield said);

- That it would be supportable with some modification;

- Or that it would not be found sound and couldn’t be supported, a scenario Harrogate experienced in 2014 when their draft local plan was thrown out by the inspectorate.

Cabinet member for planning Councillor Rebecca Burnett.

Cabinet member for planning Councillor Rebecca Burnett.

The opening day saw local residents, councillors and representatives of developers voice their thoughts on legal compliance in the formation of the plan, which outlines where in the district 14,049 houses should be built up until 2035.
Occupying the most time was a back and forth between Harrogate Borough Council’s legal representative Paul Brown QC of Landmark Chambers, and Christopher Katkowski QC, who was representing developers Flaxby Park Ltd.
The Flaxby Park area, which has seen developers submit a planning application including 2,750 homes, a retirement village, two primary schools, a GP surgery, sports facilities and a new village centre, has not been identified as the preferred location for a new settlement area.

Land around Green Hammerton/Cattal was instead advocated in the local plan. Developer Commercial Estates Group (CEG) has submitted an application to build up to 3,000 houses on land bordered by Green Hammerton to the North, and Kirk Hammerton to the south of the site.

Developers The Oakgate Group submitted an outline application for a 4000-dwelling development in the Cattal area earlier this year.

Representatives of Flaxby Pty Ltd asserted that the council had failed to correct factual errors in assessments and had given no indication that it had taken relevant representations into account in the plan; with the council response that neither point was correct.

That matter is due to return for hearing on January 29, when the selection of Green Hammerton/Cattal as a broad location for growth is set to be scrutinised.

Among the local residents addressing the hearing was Pannal and Burn Bridge Parish Councillor Howard West, who expressed his frustration of what he perceived as a lack of answers regarding residents’ concerns.

“The issue we have is that so many of the comments made by hundreds of people have failed to be addressed,” Coun West said.

In response, the council’s principal planning policy manager Tracey Rathmell said she was “satisfied” that the council’s extensive consultancy process had given the full population of Harrogate the opportunity to comment, which were taken into consideration in the plan.

Ahead of the debate, Harrogate cabinet member for planning Coun Rebecca Burnett said the draft plan was one that set out a vision for Harrogate that would enable people to own their own home and both live and work locally.

She said that creating employment opportunities close to “where people want to live,” and near housing they could afford would have the added result of tackling congestion in the district.

“Around 11,500 local people commute to Leeds, York and Bradford every day, at the same time as around 9,500 travel from these cities into our district,” she said. “The resulting congestion affects us all and impacts air quality.”

Although she conceded it would be “impossible” to create a local plan everyone was happy with, due to the “controversial nature of new development”.

“But this local plan is based on a comprehensive assessment of what our district needs,” she said. “I firmly believe this is the best local plan we could have produced.”

While not a planning matter, frustration from the public was clear as they struggled to hear in the crammed room without an efficient microphone system available.

“Can we please get the microphone going, because this is a mockery,” yelled one member of the public as tensions surrounding one of Harrogate’s most important documents ran high. It was a call repeated no less than 10 times throughout the day as those in the crowd struggled to hear what was happening at the front of the room.

Wednesday: Councillors lashes out over Boroughbridge allocations

On Wednesday, a Harrogate councillor lashed out at local plan allocations for housing at Boroughbridge.

Councillor Nick Brown, the ward member for Bishop Monkton and Newby, spoke of his concerns at the second day of hearings. Coun Brown said he had always taken “the reasonable view that the Harrogate district need to do their bit” with providing housing development space – but said the draft plan had placed a “huge over allocation” in the Boroughbridge area.

He said the plans seemed to be based on the “fundamental misconception” of a “greater Boroughbridge” – combining Boroughbridge with the villages north of the river including Kirby Hill and Langthorpe.

“It appears to me that the planning officers have cavalierly included rural villages within the township of Boroughbridge,” he said. “We need to draw a line now.”

Among concerns from residents were multiple developments already being approved in the area, including a 450 development at Stump Cross given outline approval in October. In response, Tracey Rathmell said they were satisfied that the level of growth proposed for Boroughbridge was suitable, given the large proportion of employment land and its location next to the A1.

Tuesday heralded the start of hearings taking place up until January 30, before a one week break, with a conclusion from the inspector taking place from February 12.

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporting Service