A row over building affordable homes on Harrogate’s ‘millionaire’s row’ has been upheld at the High Court as developers fight to preserve the sought-after site.
Planning permission was granted in 2011 to build five luxurious detached homes on Fulwith Mill Lane in Harrogate, ranging in value from £1.5m to £2.5m.
But, in line with Government and local authority guidance, developers would also have to provide three affordable flats on the site, a street with an average asking price of £1.3m.
Landowners Zammitt Developments have long contested this element and, saying it would be “unsuitable”, successfully overturned the conditions with the backing of a Planning Inspectorate.
But this week, after a fight, the council’s case was upheld at the High Court with developers being told the original plans - to build affordable homes next to the luxury ones - still stand.
“We welcome the High Court decision,” said Dave Allenby, HBC’s head of planning and development. “It is important that the council challenges the Inspector’s decision.
“It seriously undermines the council’s affordable housing policy and is contrary to the Government’s national planning policy framework in relation to affordable housing.”
Initial planning permission for the 0.84 hectare site was first granted in 2011. Each of the five large detached houses would come with its own bespoke design - from swimming pools to cinemas and state-of-the-art gyms - and the development had been branded one of the most exclusive in Yorkshire.
But, despite letters of objection from more than 70 neighbours, the planning permission came with specific conditions.
To sell the new houses, developers were told, they must first build three flats on the site to create affordable homes for over 55s.
This is because of a HBC policy to make 40 per cent of new homes affordable, and a Government policy to ensure a mix of homes on each new site.
Developers Zammitt Homes have long argued against this guidance, saying it would be “unsuitable” to build affordable homes next to such luxury houses.
“The Fulwith Mill Lane site is simply not as sustainable,” say developers in council documents. “Residents would be socially and physically isolated.”
Zammitt has argued that building three flats at Fulwith Mill Lane would be a “token gesture” and would not create a mixed community as the Government guidance seeks to do.
It has fought to have the planning conditions overturned, asking instead for special permission to offer the ‘affordable’ element of the new development on East Parade, which it said was “sequentially preferable in every respect”.
l Zammitt Developments have now indicated it is prepared to fight this further - setting a second High Court date for July this year.
l What do you think? Have your say online at www.harrogateadevrtiser.co.uk, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the Editor at 1 Cardale Park, Harrogate, HG3 1RZ.
THE LUXURY PROPERTIES
The new homes at Fulwith Mill Lane have been billed as one of Yorkshire’s most exlusive housing developments.
The five luxury homes, ranging in value from £1.5m to £2.5m, are up to 8,000sq ft and buyers can pick their own design, putting in indoor swimming pools, cinemas or gyms, and between four and seven buildings.
One house for sale on Rightmove at the moment, priced at £2,095,000, is described as: “A magnificent newly built five bedroom detached family home revealing meticulously designed and spacious living accommodation in one of the north’s most exclusive residential areas.”
The property comes with under-floor heating, discreet solar panels, and owners can design their own luxury features including a snooker room, ‘granny flat’, greenhouse or cinema room.
The stone detached homes, say developers, are in an “unrivalled position” overlooking Crimple Valley.
Peter Zammitt, chief executive of Zammitt Homes, said on the advert: “I’ve been developing for 20 years in Harrogate and Leeds and Fulwith Mill is an exceptionally rare site where we are bringing together all the dream aspects that so many people want to include in their home, but so rarely find.”
THE TWO SIDES OF THE DEBATE
Harrogate Borough Council’s case - Council guidance states that 40 per cent of new homes built in Harrogate must be affordable, and this applies to Fulwith Mill Lane as the site is over 0.5 hectares. Government guidance also says these affordable houses should be provided on the application site to contribute to a “mix” of housing. “In appropriate circumstances, such provision may be made by way of commuting the affordable housing by payment towards, or the provision of, a suitable alternative site in the locality,” says Government guidance.” This means that, where “robustly” justified, affordable homes can be built off-site, or a financial contribution can be given, as long as the agreed approach contributes to the creation of mixed communities. HBC planners said in appeal decisions this was not the case here: “To segregate affordable housing will contribute to social exclusion. It is not considered that a robust justification has been made for off-site provision.”
Zammitt’s case - Zammitt Developments say an alternative site, East Parade in the town centre, should be considered instead for affordable housing. Building affordable homes on Fulwith Mill Lane, it says, would be “unsustainable” given its location and would like give rise to social problems. Rather than creating inclusive, mixed and balance communities, it claims, mixing affordable homes with the luxury ones would “lead to social and physical isolation of tenants”. The site is a long way from essential facilities, developers argue, which could cause problems for aging tenants, particularly if they don’t have a car and are on low income. It would leave them isolated, says developers, far from family and friends, far from where they lived before, and would highlight “clear social disparities between the existing community and the tenants”. In submitted documents it says building affordable homes at Fulwith Mill Lane would be a “token” gesture. Any profit made would not benefit Zammitt, the developers add, but would help balance the books in light of unexpected and abnormal costs.
February 2011- HBC received outline planning application from the Trustees of the Audrey and Stanley Burton 1960 Trust to build five detached houses and three affordable units on site.
May 2011 - Application granted, subject to condition that affordable homes built on site, to be submitted before work began on the luxury homes.
April 2012 - Peter Zammitt, new landowner, applied for reserved matters application under outline permission concerning access, layout and scale of the site.
May 2013 - Mr Zammitt sought variation of conditions, asking to provide the affordable housing element off-site. HBC says this would mean he could build an extra luxury home at Fulwith Mill Lane, meaning a “significant” windfall for him.
August 2013 - Application refused by HBC.
November 2013 - Mr Zammitt appeals council’s decision to the Planning Inspectorate.
December 2013 - Inspector allows Mr Zammitt’s appeal, granting new planning permission without disputed condition, saying just one affordable home must be built and this can be off site.
January 2014 - HBC challenges this decision in the High Court and Government concedes its Inspector made wrong decision. Planning application reverts to original.
Feb 2014 - Mr Zammitt seeks to contest case again at High Court in Leeds, on a number of procedural and technical points.
May 2014 - His Honour Judge Behrens on Tuesday, May 13, dismissed all procedural challenges to council’s case and refused Mr Zammitt’s application to appeal to Court of Appeal.
Now - A HBC spokesman says Mr Zammitt has indicated intention to contest substantive issue and that hearing has been fixed for July 14 at Leeds High Court.