Residents' fury over threat to Knaresborough tourism

Residents of Badger Hill retirement park are furious at the decision. Picture: Adrian Murray
Residents of Badger Hill retirement park are furious at the decision. Picture: Adrian Murray

The residents of a tranquil and secure retirement park in Knaresborough claim a planning decision  has threatened not only their community but the town’s tourism economy as well.

Retirees living on Badger Hill Park have raised serious concerns after Harrogate Borough Council have considered removing a planning condition which would allow five of the park’s holiday cottages to be sold for residential use.

Having conducted a survey of holiday accommodation in Knaresborough’s town centre, Badger Hill residents’ association argued that the decision could cut places to stay in half.

Ian Hartley, Secretary of the residents’ association, said: “There were 13 properties offering self catering holiday lets within one mile of the town centre which provided around 100 beds in total.

“Badger Hill itself provides 58 beds. As soon as you take Badger Hill out of the equation you’re taking more than 50 per cent of the tourist properties offering available beds out of the town centre.

Emphasising the importance of these properties, Mr Hartley highlighted that Knaresborough has just two hotels and ‘limited bed and breakfast accommodation offers’.

Speaking at the planning committee meeting on December 6, Mr Hartley said the decision would pave the way to the loss of 17,000 “visitor-nights” at Badger Hill every year. He said:

“Coming at a time when the District is promoting visitor events like the International Road Race and the Tour de Yorkshire, it beggars belief. And it is totally unfair not only on the residents of Badger Hill Park, but on all those businesses in Knaresborough relying so heavily on tourism.”

The park, which is technically called Droppingwell Village, is split into two parts; a retirement community (Badger Hill) and a holiday homes site for visitors to the town, both of which are accessed via one security gate.

Residents who live in the retirement park are subject to conditions, including being aged 50 or over, not owning a dog and a number of other rules to maintain a tranquil environment.

However Mr Hartley points out that if the planning condition is overturned and the cottages were sold off, any new residents would not be obligated to comply with the park rules, threatening the current residents’ way of life.

Until recently, both parts of the park were owned by Barton Park Homes, but in November the group, which runs several retirement parks, sold the residential side of the site.

Director of Barton Park Homes, Charles Barton Junior, said: “We feel that the change of use for the properties at Droppingwell Village Limited, from holiday cottages to residential homes would be a significant benefit to all residents.

"Instead of there being a high turnover of holiday makers coming and going on site, the properties will be privately owned. Surely this is more favourable and secure for the existing residents on the park.”

Mr Hartley also said that information over occupancy rates of the cottages had been presented at a stage too late to challenge the figures.

Since the meeting, the residents’ association have asked to challenge the occupancy figures and as a result planning officers have said they are holding off on issuing a decision.

A spokesperson for Harrogate Borough Council said: “The officer report concluded that the proposal complied with national and local planning policies and that there were no other material considerations that would warrant setting aside those policies.

"A verbal update was given to members following the receipt of a letter from the agent responsible for the application which included details of occupancy rates.

“This practice is not unusual and members had the opportunity to question the information before making their decision.

“Officers have, however, held back the issuing of the decision in order to receive further information aimed at verifying the occupancy rates provided to date.

"Should there be any significant variance in the information received, consideration will be given as to whether or not the application needs to be taken back to the committee.”