Letter: Local plan - Neither site is suitable for homes

Land at Flaxby, near Knaresborough.
Land at Flaxby, near Knaresborough.

May I respond to the editor’s comment published in the Harrogate Advertiser of January 12.

I, for one, am sparing no thought for the planners because they appear to be unable to do anything more imaginative than succumbing to pressure from developers who want their land to be built on.

Harrogate has already had one draft local plan rejected by the government for failing to meet the demand for housing, and is in danger of it happening again if it pursues its proposal for a “new or expanded settlement”.

This proposal is deliberately worded to avoid the planning requirements for a “new town”, which to all intent and purposes is exactly what a “settlement” with a population over 8,000 will be.

This proposal could never be considered as a “village”, garden or otherwise, so let’s not fool ourselves.

A new or expanded settlement will have no planning requirements for the services and infrastructure to be in place before people live there, and the prospect is that it will be a “dormitory” town.

No shops. No health provision. No pubs or restaurants. No garage. Only one or two primary schools. No church. No community centre.

What sort of life can residents expect in such a place? Who would want to live there? Would houses there ever attract buyers?

By selecting the Flaxby or Hammerton site for inclusion in the Local Plan our planners are simply opting for the “quick fix”, or “easy option” without giving the matter due consideration.

Neither site has yet been fully researched or investigated, so we do not know whether either or both would be found unsuitable.

There are numerous reasons why both sites could be seen as a totally unacceptable location for a new town.

By offering us a choice of one or the other (only one site will be included in the plan) there is an assumption that both sites are potentially suitable. This is not the case.

Right now, neither site has been determined as being suitable for a “new town”. This would be like a car salesman offering a choice of cars for sale, but saying he doesn’t know whether they actually work. How could this ever be acceptable?

What would the council do if, after selecting one of the two sites, many months later after all the investigations are completed it is determined to be unsuitable?

It could never admit to its error, and would be committed to spending vast additional sums of our money to make it work. In other words, another “political fudge”.

Our planners are selling us short.

Yes, we need the houses, and the council’s own consultant’s report has stated very clearly that the best option, far and away, is to expand our existing towns and villages.

But, the planners claim, there might be a shortfall, hence the need for a “new or expanded settlement” to make up the numbers.

There are substantial sites available for development that are not included in the draft local plan, eg in Ripon. Why not? Why force residents to choose between two sites, neither of which might be acceptable?

I think our planners need to do a bit more homework.

But what of the future? We should be planning now for a new town in an acceptable location that will be capable of meeting our housing needs way beyond 2035.

The demand for housing will not simply stop when the Local Plan for 2014–2035 comes to an end.

There is a clue in the title. Planning.

H White

Flaxby