Harrogate Borough Council's latest version of its Local Plan is facing a major challenge from one of the town’s biggest residents groups.
Harlow & Pannal Ash Residents Association is questioning the number of new houses on the west side of Harrogate identifed in the council’s draft Local Plan sent recently to the Government’s planning inspector for scrutiny.
In a sign that they mean business, the concerned residents are a launching a fundraising campaign to produce a professional, independent report for evidence to submit to the planning inspectorate as they review the Local Plan.
Harrogate council says its plan has been submitted following four full public consultations, thousands of amendments and that it reflects the local evidence collected.
Though it is not a formal legal challenge, the residents association is determined to prove that that the traffic model, on which the Local Plan relies, seriously understates the problem.
HAPARA committee member David Siddanssaid: “Putting thousands of houses on the west side of Harrogate is regarded by planners as a “quick win”, but it flies in the face of their own policies on sustainability, congestion, air quality and, it should be added, landscape protection.
“The point on road infrastructure is that we believe the scope for improving the capacity of the road network west of Harrogate is severely limited.
“Such improvements that are possible, for instance traffic signal upgrades and the odd minor junction improvement, will struggle to cope with developments which already have permission, let alone the significant increases which the Local Plan would generate.”
The council’s case is that the proposed new housing numbers in this part of Harrogate are essential not only to meet people’s needs for homes, but also support new jobs as the local economy grows.
Coun Rebecca Burnett, Harrogate Borough Council’s cabinet member for planning, said: “The council has prepared a plan that meets the evidenced needs of our district.
“New homes, particularly in large numbers, are always controversial and it is not unusual for a council at this stage of its plan to see a number of action groups preparing to challenge the elements that most affect their areas.”
The members of HAPARA, who also recently commissioned an FOI on the issue, argue that the Local Plan has ignored residents’ concerns.
Rene Dziabas, acting chair, said: “It is obvious that the consultation process on the local plan was no more than a tick box exercise with residents’ comments not impacting on the final documents.
“We still dispute that the infrastructure around the west of Harrogate will be able to accommodate the very high number of new properties being proposed.
“As such we will need to make our own professional representation to the planning inspectorate to ensure residents views are accounted for.”
But the council says its decision to allocate land to the west of Harrogate has been based on a range of evidence base work that includes a sustainability appraisal, traffic modelling work and mitigation, an infrastructure capacity study and infrastructure delivery plan.
The conclusion was that with appropriate mitigation and new infrastructure, the development proposed could be accommodated successfully over the life of the plan.
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