Burnt-out eyesore in Harrogate: Hopes grow of 'prestige' redevelopment rising from the ashes
The lengthy saga of a burnt-out eyesore on a key Harrogate street may end in demolition after what the local councillor has condemned as a "disappointingly" slow process.
The former McColl' /Harpers store site on the Starbeck High Street on the busy Knaresborough Road has stood roofless since July 2018 when it hit by a huge fire which destroyed its roof and caused huge plumes of smoke and flames across the skies.
For nearly six months afterwards the neighbouring footpath and pedestrian crossing were also closed to residents for safety reasons.
But Lib Dem Coun Philip Broadbank, the Borough and County Councillor for Starbeck, who has been calling for action for many months on the building at 61-62 High Street which he argues is beyond restoration, is delighted that talks are taking place and some progress is finally being made.
Coun Broadbank said: "The the site owners have been involved in “pre-application” discussions to clarify with Harrogate Borough planning officers before their application is submitted for consideration for a decision to be made.
"The application involves demolition of the existing building and replacing with a new one that would have retail use on the ground floor with a mix of one and two bedroomed flats for sale."
Normal face to face talks have not been as easy as they would have been without the Covid pandemic but they have finally taken place between the site owner, their consultants and council planning officers, said Coun Broadbank.
Recent discussions, he added, have focused on concerns from the Conservation Officer who has asked whether the existing building can be retained and refurbished.
Although the site is next to the Grade 2 listed St Andrews Church it is not in the Starbeck Conservation area itself.
Coun Broadbank said he welcomed the latest developments but questioned the length of time it was taking to deal with such a prominent eyesore for the community.
He said: "As I have previously said I would like to see the semi-derelict building cleared and a planning application submitted.
"I have been involved in discussions with the planning officers, site owners, Building Control, Enforcement Officers, Planning legal officers and the local Police.
"The time taken to make progress and get things moving has been very disappointing and frustrating to say the least.
"I have lived in Starbeck for nearly 40 years and I am looking for a prestige redevelopment that will help to regenerate the High Street and encourage other independent shop owners and retailers to move here.
"Compulsory Purchase of the site by the Council is clearly an option but takes time and is only used as a last resort.
"I have spoken to planning officers about the need for demolition and urged the site owner to submit his application now. "
Coun Broadbank said it was time to start afresh with a planning application which would give Starbeck people the chance to look at what was being proposed for the site.
He said: "The planning application would go through the normal process and people could give their views at that point.
"I have no intention of letting this situation continue any longer than necessary despite that frustrations rations that exist.
"The current situation is in nobody’s interest - it’s time to drop talk of restoring the existing building and time to start afresh."