An entire new village could be built in the Harrogate district.
Plans for new village at Flaxby Golf Course could be part of the solution for Harrogate Borough Council’s planning woes, developers have said.
The £100million Flaxby Hotel development has been put on hold while land owners, Skelwith Group, draw up plans to build a new town or village of up to 2,500 homes, the Advertiser can exclusively reveal.
Planners are working on the designs for the 280 acre site which will see the golf course turned into a village.
The company has had planning permission for a 300-bed hotel since 2008 and insisted that it is still ‘wholly committed’ to building the hotel but admitted it would likely be different from the luxury 5 star hotel spa hotel which was first mooted.
A spokesman for Skelwith Group said: “Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) needs to find a substantial amount of land for housing and employment development to maintain the districts’ prosperity in the years ahead. It needs to avoid Green Belt sites, and to choose locations which are both sustainable in planning terms and which are in places where people want to live and work.
“In this context, we believe the golf course and other land may have a role to play, and this possibility is currently being explored. However, the matter is at a very early stage, and the idea is still evolving.”
The new village would include up to 2,500 homes, a primary school, a village centre with shops, a doctors surgery, business and office units and bus routes.
It is hoped that a rail halt will be created at the nearby at the Flaxby Green Park business development which is proposed to be built on the other side of the A59, however developers say the houses will be sustainable even without this.
The access road to the site and roundabout were completed earlier this year at a cost of £4million, making it the most expensive roundabout in North Yorkshire.
The Skelwith Group say the development would offer a range of housing, including the 40 per cent affordable quota the council demands.
The new village is among over 200 sites which have been put forward to HBC to be included in the next local plan, though developers say they hope to also submit planning applications sometime in 2015.
It is expected to take the council up to three years to complete a new local plan after a government planning inspector blasted the councils latest plan as inadequate and it was withdrawn after five years of work at a cost of £250,000.
HBC were told they needed to provide an estimated 825 to 1000 houses per year to meet demand, double the 390 homes the council had proposed.
Cabinet member for planning and HBC deputy leader, Coun Michael Harrison (Con, Killinghall) said although he welcomes new ideas for the local plan, he would not welcome developers applying for large scale housing sites before the local plan process was completed.
He said: “I am aware that the site has been put forward during the call for sites and I welcome the submission of new ideas. However the proper process is to consult the public through the local plan process and only when the public have been consulted on all the sites proposed make submissions for which sites to be included in the local plan.
“Any submissions before the proper local plan consultation would not be welcome.”
Harrogate Lib Dems first suggested that the council needed to look at a new settlements near the A1 in May 2014.
Skelwith Group’s spokesperson emphasised that the development would retain the green landscaping including the ten lakes and 15,000 tree woodland which was planted according to designs by leading golfing architect David Hemstock in 2004.
The Flaxby golf course was heralded as one of the premier courses in the North of England when it opened in 2004 and the facility had launched an ambitious bid to host the Ryder Cup in 2008.
However the Skelwith Group say the course is simply not profitable and that the region has too many golfing facilities.
Around ten people are thought to be employed at the Golf Course and have been told of the new plans this week.
Skelwith Group will launch a public consultation on the plans in the coming months.
What the councillors think
Harrogate and Knaresborough Lib Dem’s deputy leader Coun Helen Flynn (Nidd Valley) said: “In principle it seems fantastic. It would take quite a lot of pressure off Knaresborough and Harrogate itself.
“But the plans would need a good infrastructure in place, I still have some concerns about the plans’ impact on the A59, there would need to be improvements.
“I still think we need to be looking at new ideas to solve the problems.”
Even if planning permission was granted for all 2,500 houses, HBC would still not have a five-year supply of housing.
Coun Flynn added: “That just goes to show the scale of the problem, the scale of the issue the council is facing. This new settlement could be part of the solution, but it wouldn’t be enough to solve the issues.”
The small village of Flaxby would border the new town, ward Coun Caroline Bayliss (Con, Ribston) said she was unsure how the villagers would react to the news.
She said: “I was very interested to hear of the Skelwith Groups plans for Flaxby Golf Course and glad that the proposed hotel is still an integral part of their plans, now the important think to find out is how the residents in my ward feel about this proposal.”
The area’s County Councillor, Coun John Savage (Ainsty) said: “The idea makes sense with the road network and the proposed railway halt plus the need for housing in a very congested Harrogate.”
The Liberal councillor added: “I wonder if the homes could be heated by the new Allerton Park incinerator.”
Knaresborough County Coun Ivor Fox (Con) said: “I am not in favour of housing being built over green areas. I can fully understand the concept of some housing alongside the golf course however the switch from an open green amenity to 2,500 houses is not as easy to understand.
“However I do fully support the concept of developing a new village around that area and know proposals have also been put forward for near Cattal, which already has a station.”
He added: “The proposal of building a new village should take the pressure off demand for house building else where in Knaresborough.
“It could also benefit the town’s economy, could help Knaresborough re-establish its position as the ancient market town.”