The more I read about the Local Plan Draft Housing Allocation for the town of Harrogate, the more convinced I become that neither the infrastructure nor the local services will be able to cope with this major increase in population.
The town already has well documented traffic congestion and air pollution problems. These can only be further exacerbated by increased residential development within the town boundary.
Just take the Kingsley area for example - the proposed draft allocation covering the development of the protected green wedge (Policy C10) at the Bilton Triangle is for over 600 new homes and the only access to this site is from the Knaresborough Road. Due to no nearby employment area or bus service, this means potentially an extra 600 or more vehicle movements per day at both the morning and evening rush hours onto a road that already suffers from both congestion and air pollution at Bond End and the Empress Roundabout, not to mention the total closure of the road at Starbeck Crossing every 30 minutes at rush hour and throughout the day.
This is not an isolated case - other parts of the town threatened with proposed development can also no doubt highlight significant problems that will be created within their local area.
How are the town’s services such as doctors’ and dentists’ surgeries going to cope? I moved to the town over three years ago and, of all the dentists that I approached at that time, none were taking on any new NHS patients. How will the system cope with all these new residents?
The waiting time for an appointment at my local GP is now seven days and in fact there’s currently only a total of 10 appointments available to book for the whole of the following seven day period and I’m sure this position is replicated throughout the town. I had to wait three months for an appointment at the dermatology unit at Harrogate District Hospital.
What about school places? Are children to be bussed across or out of town for schooling because their local school has insufficient capacity?
I ask again, how will these essential services cope with this increase in demand?
The solution is to suspend any further major residential development within Harrogate town until the next housing review and to build not one but two or even three new out of town settlements where the infrastructure and local services can be matched to the residents’ requirements and needs.
A more radical alternative is to build a major new settlement on farmland to the east of Knaresborough on either side of the A1 at Junction 47 giving access to excellent road and rail connections. The A59 provides east-west connection whilst the A1 adds north-south links.
The A1 is now a three lane motorway throughout most of North Yorkshire and the York to Leeds railway line running through the site is due a major upgrade in the near future with a timetable revision to match.
Local councillors, you live in this town, you daily experience the many problems that frustrate and annoy its residents, now is the time to act before it’s too late.
This is your legacy so be bold and vote against the Local Plan for any further residential development in the town and urge your officers now for a more radical approach to the problem or the town will be looking forward to utter mayhem.
Let this be a plan for the future of Harrogate town, not a plan for the future misery of its residents.