Hearings discussing Harrogate’s development plan were postponed by the council after concerns were raised by the examining inspector.
The sessions, opened on April 23 and set to last until today (May 1), have been postponed until these concerns are submitted in writing to Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) when it will review its position.
However, some councillors worry that the sites and policies development plan document (DPD), which seeks to deliver planning policies for the district up to 2024, will have to be completely rethought despite six years of work, looking specifically at the number of houses proposed - currently 390 per annum from 2004 to 2024 (7,800 in total).
Harlow Moor Coun Don Mackenzie (Con) said: “At the end of the second day’s session on April 24, concerns had been raised by developers and their legal team about one or two aspects of the DPD as to where to put the various sites in the district.
“The council’s officers responded to these concerns and asked for a postponement of this week’s proceedings.
“I understand that some of the reasons behind the developer’s concerns is that they don’t agree with the low number of houses proposed in the plan, but until we see the concerns in writing we can’t say much more.”
The draft of the DPD was submitted to the Secretary of State for public examination in November 2013. With the core strategy adopted in 2009, this document forms a crucial part of the Harrogate district local development plan - a framework affecting the whole district.
Rossett Coun David Siddans (Lib Dem) said: “The main concern seems to be that the council has not allowed for enough housing in the plan, basically. I think that the actual needs for housing is double what is in the draft plan, and that is pretty staggering stuff.
“There are a lot of people objecting to applications, and yet the inspector is saying we really need double that amount and it is hard to see how a radical rethink of the whole thing can be avoided, though I appreciate there may be further updates this week.
“The whole thing has got to go back to the drawing board again. That seems to be a likely scenario, and the problem with that you would end up with an extended period of a total vacuum of planning policy in which developers will have a free for all.
“It would be completely open season with them putting in applications, because in the absence of a local plan it is difficult for the council to sustain its own policies.”
In a letter to HBC head of planning and development Dave Allenby, dated April 29, inspector Phillip Ware, appointed to look at the DPD, raised two major concerns.
He stated that the employment figures used to inform the DPD may not be considered up to date and therefore compliant with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
Crucially, the inspector said that the submitted DPD falls considerably short of meeting the objectively assessed housing need.
According to the letter, the DPD seeks to provide 390 dwellings per annum, in line with the Core Strategy, as opposed to the Strategic Housing Market Assessment projections of 862 and 1,086 - a substantial shortfall.
Mr Ware wrote: “It is now for the Council to decide if it wishes to continue with the DPD Hearings or withdraw the DPD.
“In this context please bear in mind that it is very unlikely that the matters which I have raised in this letter could be resolved by seeking to make Main Modifications to the DPD.
“The issues go to the heart of the document. It is very probable that resolving them satisfactorily would require a fundamental review of your strategic approach and could result in any event in the suspension of the hearings for a longer period than would be acceptable.”
In his reply to the letter, Mr Allenby stated that HBC is minded to withdraw the DPD, subject to formal ratification by the council which will provisionally take place on Wednesday, May 14.