A NEW 500-space car park will be built at Harlow Carr after approval was given by Harrogate Council this week.
Planners were evenly split over whether the new facility should be permitted - but the committee chairman’s casting vote meant the plans will go ahead.
The debate centred on the suitability of putting a new car park in a designated special landscape area, as well as the impact of additional vehicles using the narrow junction between Crag Lane and Otley Road.
Representing local residents, Terry Byrne told planners the temporary car park to the south of the overflow car park was more suitable and would encroach less into an important area of countryside.
He added: “For us to lose this unique area to parking when there is a better alternative is unthinkable.”
But Liz Thwaite, head of RHS Harlow Carr, said planning officers had advised that a permanent car park closer to Otley Road, on the east side of Crag Lane, was unlikely to be viewed favourably.
She said the proposals were part of a “masterplan” and that visitor numbers had risen to more than 270,000 but could begin to decline if car parking facilities were not improved.
“Our really busy days are school holidays, bank holidays and weekends,” she added.
“Those are the days we don’t have enough car parking facilities.”
Mrs Thwaite said the car park could also be used by people visiting the area to go walking or spend time in the Pinewoods because enjoying the outdoors was in line with the RHS’s aims.
Coun Pat Marsh questioned the impact on traffic at the junction between Otley Road and Crag Lane, particularly with the new police station currently under construction and plans for up to 2,000 new homes on fields nearby. She said she was surprised North Yorkshire County Council’s highways department had said the junction would cope with the traffic, with “minimal queuing”.
Coun Jim Clark said: “I can’t support this application.
“I think the fact that there would be a decline in Harlow Carr unless a permanent car park is approved today is overstating it.”
When councillors were split, with seven votes for the application and seven against, chairman Coun Nigel Simms’s casting vote in favour carried it through.
The approval will now be deferred to the head of planning services until a Section 106 agreement is made for contributions to the local cycle network and drainage issues are resolved.