Row over site notices

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DEVELOPERS working at sites across Harrogate claim at least 50 workers have been laid off after a decision by Harrogate Council.

It issued temporary stop notices for four sites last week, stating conditions given as part of the planning consent had not been met.

The sites affected were Harrogate Railway Athletic in Station View, Dove Cottage in Staveley, Somerley at 38 Boroughbridge Road, Knaresborough and a plot at St James’s Business Park, although the council said it has investigated more than 100 sites under the Code of Sustainable Development.

A council spokesman said all of the sites had agreed to follow the code as part of their planning application, meeting the council’s policy of raising the standard and design of construction and reducing damage to the environment.

But Chris Bentley, managing director of Hornbeam Developments, said in 15 years of construction the council had never enforced the rules as strictly as they had last week.

In the past, he said, the council would give the final sign-off once the work was complete.

He said: “Most of those guys (who have been laid off) probably now won’t work until after Christmas.

“More importantly, there will be people with smaller businesses who have been frightened by the threat of a £20,000 or £25,000 fine and they could go bust.”

Conditions for all four sites included showing the required level for sustainability had been met, while the Boroughbridge Road site had to have its affordable housing element approved and the Harrogate Railway developer had to put forward details of the different phases for the scheme.

Although some of the developers have submitted applications to have the conditions discharged, they have not yet been signed off by the council.

The council spokesman said: “If the developers/owners of these sites are able to provide the council with sufficient evidence to show that the requirements of the planning conditions will be satisfactorily met, then consideration will be given to lifting the temporary stop notices.

“If this evidence is not forthcoming, the council will need to consider whether or not to pursue further enforcement action.

“The developers/owners knew what the conditions were when the applications were approved.

“They haven’t protested against the conditions. They haven’t complied with them either.

“The developers/owners have to make sure they do so before any further building work is carried out.”

Mr Bentley said it was “disproportionate” for such stringent action to be taken during a recession, when it was important to keep sites running.

He added: “What good would it be if, at certain sites that are building homes, the business goes bust and it could be left languishing for six months?”

l Is the council right to issue stop notices or should development go ahead as long as conditions are met, even if they have not been signed off?

Email ackrill.news@ypn.co.uk or write to the address on Page 10.