Historic church at centre of heated housing row in Hampsthwaite

If the turnout at Wednesday night's meeting at Hampsthwaite Memorial Hall is anything to go by, a large proportion of residents feel strongly on the issue.
If the turnout at Wednesday night's meeting at Hampsthwaite Memorial Hall is anything to go by, a large proportion of residents feel strongly on the issue.

The final straw for many protesters in a village near Harrogate at a heated'consultation meeting on new housing plans was the possible effects on a medieval church.

Or, rather, what they say is a 'threat' to it.

If the turnout at Wednesday night's meeting at Hampsthwaite Memorial Hall is anything to go by, a large proportion of residents feel strongly on the issue.

In total, 337 new houses are planned across five different sites in the village, which currently has 440 homes, approximately.

Hampsthwaite Parish Council has already expressed its opposition to the scale of the housing expansion which it says would double the size of the village.

One of the sites now being proposed is proving contentious, in particular.

St Thomas a Becket Church in Hampsthwaite dates back as far as 1180 although there evidence of its existence of grave covers from the fifth and sixth centuries.

Margaret Willis of Hampsthwaite Action Group said: "The proprosed site is opposite this church, close to the ancient bridge and the river Nidd.

"The site floods on a regular basis and Yorkshire Water currently arrive at the site weekly to deal with sewers that can not cope with the current population let alone any more houses. It is a totally inapropriate site for housing."

The Reverend Chrissy Wilson, the vicar at St Thomas a Becket, Hampsthwaite with Felliscliffe and also St Thomas the Apostle, Killinghall and St James, Birstwith has also expressed some concern, saying that local views should be listened to, properly.

She said: "'Many of our parishioners hold strong views regarding the new housing proposals and there has been a lot of discontent expressed.

"It is important that local voices are listened to during the planning process, and I hope that everyone will be heard, as with any democratic process."

Last Wednesday's consultation meeting was called by the landowner, Sir James Aykroyd, and his developers to show their plans for the developed sites.

In the event, the meeting proved an emotional affair.

Hampsthwaite Action Group say that, when the main landowner of the possible sites , Sir James Aykroyd, arrived he was given a reception with people following him into the hall demanding to know why he was planning to sell his land for housing in this village.

Margaret Willis said: "He was persuaded by local people to examine the Action Group's exhibition and to reflect on the images displayed showing the beauty of Hampsthwaite together with the already congested roads throughout the village and the flooded fields .

"He was questioned by many residents , young and old, by those who have small businesses in the village and by the chair of school governors and was repeatedly asked to justify his plans and to reconsider developing the site."