Auction Mart plans on hold

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Controversial plans for a major housing development in Ripon have been withdrawn after a barrage of objections from nearby residents.

Proposals for 96 housing units on the former auction mart, the disused Station Inn pub and neighbouring Magdalen’s Hill field have been withdrawn from the borough council’s planning process, and developers are expected to submit new plans for 91 homes on the same site within days.

Plans for the site were first revealed in November last year and were met with objections from nearby residents, many of whom wanted to see the derelict auction mart redeveloped but were concerned about the intensity of the proposals.

Residents also spoke out with worries over ground stability on the site with gypsum dissolution problems well-known in Ripon.

Developer Nick Moody of Newby Management is working with building firm Ben Bailey Homes on the project. He said the public and statutory consultation processes had given rise to several amendments to the plans.

They decided to withdraw the application and make another based on revised plans after discussions with council planning officials, he added.

Engineers from the British Geological Survey have voiced concerns over gypsum problems in the Ripon area.

Dr Anthony Cooper, who is Regional Geologist for Yorkshire and the Humber, contacted planning officials after hearing of plans for the site.

He said the site layout should not be planned before the full ground investigation was considered, and wrote to the council and developers saying:

“This part of Ripon is particularly problematical and very difficult to investigate and interpret, it may be a challenge to develop and some of the site may be too dangerous to build on.”

Around a third of the auction mart site has peat at the surface, he continued, which along with gypsum subsidence can cause problems for buildings on top of it.

“The majority of properties constructed on peat in the area (Princess Road and North Road) including some quite modern ones, have suffered such severe subsidence that they have been demolished.”

However developers have spoken out to assure planners and residents that ground stability is not a problem on the auction mart site.

“There’s no problems with gypsum on that site and the plans have not been withdrawn for any of those reasons,” Mr Moody said.

A huge amount of ground investigation has gone on at the site, he added, and they are confident the site is safe to build on.

Scott Varley, land director at builders Ben Bailey Homes said:

“The request for the withdrawal of the planning application was made on Tuesday, January 24. 

“It was a proactive decision by Ben Bailey and our agents, which has been made to enable continued dialogue with the local residents and officers of Harrogate Borough Council and was not due to any issues regarding gypsum or ground stability. The scheme is being refreshed taking into account matters raised with the previous application and a fresh application will be submitted in due course following further consultation and discussions with the Local Planning Authority, residents and Councillors.”

Draft for new plans, set to be unveiled at public consultation meeting on Thursday, January 26, would see a lower density of homes on the site, Mr Moody said.

Some units will be moved round in the interests of good design and consider neighbouring homes, while others will be reduced from three storeys to two, he added.