Harrogate’s housing need outweighs landscape concerns

Harrogate’s lack of infrastructure and special landscape is insignificant in the face of a dire need for more housing, a government planning inspector has ruled.

Despite a lack of school places, GP services and the special landscape of the area, developers have won an appeal to build 132 houses on land opposite Harlow Carr gardens.

Campaigners have now said this sets a worrying precedent for the entire district.

Murray Trantor, chairman of the Harlow and Pannal Ash Residents’ Associationsaid: “It is a blow, not just for the people in the west of Harrogate but it has set a precedent for the rest of the district. I can’t see the council having the guts to fight apeals on any more sites now.

“It is going to be a developers free for all. The council have effectively lost control to the government inspector.”

Harrogate Borough Council’s planning committee voted to refuse the plans as the development would have a detrimental visual impact upon the Special Landscape Area.

The council was forced to withdraw its concerns about traffic issues as North Yorkshire County Council Highways department had no objections to the scheme.

Despite the education authority’s worries over the increased pressure for school places, government planning inspector said that developer’s financial contributions would be enough to make the scheme acceptable.

Inspector Simon Berkley said in his report: “It may be that there are issues with local infrastructure and services, such as GP surgeries. But that alone does not amount to a strong reason to reject the scheme. “

He concluded: “While the proposed development would cause some harm to the character and appearance of the landscape and surrounding area, and consequently to the setting of Harrogate, it need not do so to a material extent.

“I have also concluded that there are no adverse impacts which significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefit of providing the homes proposed.”

Neil Hind, chairman of the Pinewoods Conservation Group said the group was disaoiuned with the decision. “It will have a severe impact on the Pinewoods and the nature in the surrounding area that even the report admits. With the lack of an agreed housing plan I suspect this will just one of many appeals that will be granted.”

Coun Michael Harrison, Cabinet Member for Planning (Con, Killinghall) said: “At the moment we are under pressure from these predatory developers.

“It does put the pressure on Harrogate in terms of the need for houses and until we have got a local plan in place or a five-year supply of housing in the pipe-line we are at risk of developers appealing for permission on land that the council would rather not see developed.

“This case is particularly disapointing as the decision was in line with council officers recommendations. But we will continue to refuse applications and defend at appeals if we need to.”