Council set to approve plans for a new £9m office

Knapping Mount artist impression from April 2014

Knapping Mount artist impression from April 2014

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Councillors are set to grant planning permission for a new £9million office build at Knapping Mount next week.

The controversial proposals for a new office complex has divided the council over the last 18 months, and a final decision will not be made until the summer.

The new development at Knapping Mount will see the council’s employees moved from five sites across the town, to one purpose built office.

The plans for the circular office building are spread over two blocks and three floors and include a customer service area, meeting chambers and a public courtyard.

Council officers are recommending that the planning committee members vote to approve the planning application on Tuesday (March 3).

Councillors have been divided down party lines since the idea was first proposed in 2013, with Lib Dems calling on the council to keep the landmark Crescent Gardens building, while Conservatives say the efficiency savings could save £1million a year.

Council leader, Coun Richard Cooper (Con, High Harrogate) is confident that this won’t affect voting next week.

He said: “Wether or not they agree with the council having new offices, this is about the decision over the building.

“There is no question over the idea of the Knapping Mount site being suitable for development, the Lib Dems want houses there, the council wants money-saving offices.”

He added: “This is normal, and the council have refused its own planning applications for the conference centre in the past.”

Coun Michael Harrison (Con, Killinghall) the Cabinet Member for Planning said: “When we as a local planning authority are to make decision on our own applications I can understand why some people will think that it is wrong but we have no choice, there is no other mechanism.

“It is the same as any other application when it goes to the committee.”

The final decision on if the council should push ahead with plans will be decided by the full council in the summer.

Lib Dem deputy leader Coun Helen Flynn (Nidd Valley) has said: “We are becoming increasingly concerned about the prospect of devolution, it is just not the right time to be doing this. We shouldn’t be spending money on a building we may not need.”

Coun Flynn added that she still hoped the council could retain Crescent Gardens which is worth between £2million and £5million by estate agents.