Harrogate Borough Council has hit back as controversy heats up over plans for new housing across the district as part of its latest Local Plan.
While recognising that development is unpopular, the council's viewpoint is that the Local Plan, alongside the council’s Economic Growth Strategy, has the potential to resolve a multitude of serious problems facing our district.
In its view, it is grappling with a series of major problems related to lack of housing which simply have to be tackled.
Coun Rebecca Burnett, Cabinet Member (Planning) said: "Local politicians have ducked this issue for decades. But we are proud to be a part of this administration which is finally working for young people and families, reducing congestion, tackling air quality, addressing homelessness and supporting businesses.
"Harrogate Borough Council is determined to address these problems by providing the number and type of houses we need.
"We hear people across the whole of our district telling me that they accept the need for more houses, but that they should be built somewhere else.
"Clearly, if everybody holds this position and we accept that everyone is correct then no houses can be built anywhere.
"But everyone is not correct. There are many places where houses can be built, just not places where people nearby want them to be built.
"Professional planning experts have assessed how many new homes we need, based on natural population growth, job vacancies, people on the housing waiting list, projected employment requirements and other statistics."
TWO OF DISTRICT'S BIGGEST PROBLEMS
It argues that the plans to build 16,500 new homes in the Harrogate district before 2035 has the potential to solve several major problems including:
1. Our young people cannot afford to buy a house here.
Our average (mean) house prices are £342,590 – 31.5 per cent higher than the North Yorkshire average, and 35.6 per cent higher than the national average.
It is beyond most of the people who grow up in our district to be able to afford to buy a house here. The price of the average property in Harrogate is 13.4 times the average salary.
We lose many young people to university towns and cities because we have great schools. But they cannot afford to return.
And those who complete their education locally find themselves living with parents often into their mid-thirties.
An increase in the supply of good quality smaller market housing across the district will help address this imbalance.
2. Commuters are a major cause of congestion on our roads
Whilst we also have a high proportion of local traffic in the towns of Harrogate and Knaresborough (that is people travelling less than five miles in their cars) which needs addressing, commuters are a major issue.
To generalise – people who can afford to live in our district commute daily to higher paid jobs in cities like Leeds and York, and the less wealthy people working in our large tourism sector commute daily from cheaper housing areas in cities like Leeds and York.
The A61 and the A59 in the morning and afternoon peak prove this point.
We have air quality issues in Knaresborough, Harrogate and Ripon. The majority of this is caused by private vehicle exhausts.
Congestion caused by both local and commuter traffic causes stationery queues at busy junctions.
ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF MORE HOUSING FOR VILLAGES
Coun Rebecca Burnett, Cabinet Member (Planning) said: "the council’s Economic Growth Strategy aims to bring higher value jobs to our local economy, allow growing local businesses to expand and stay here, and raise our average workplace earnings from their current below average (median) level of £25,486.
"The part the Local Plan has to play is, again, in increasing the supply of good quality smaller market housing across the district. This will help those who work here afford to live here too.
"Proportionate developments in many villages will help revitalise and support rural centres. Part of the Local Plan is a ‘housing mix’ policy which presses developers to build a mix of houses suited to the needs of the local area – not just to what they can sell for the most profit on the open market.
"Our villages are struggling. Without people to use them rural pubs, post offices, community centres and village shops are closing.
"Development also brings investment into these facilities, alongside more people to use them.
"Rural bus services are in decline because there aren’t enough people using them.
"While fewer and fewer young people and families can afford to live in our villages local services will decline and close."
HELPING PEOPLE GET ON PROPERTY LADDER
Harrogate Borough Council also says the new housing is required because there are thousands of people on the housing waiting list.
Coun Rebecca Burnett, Cabinet Member (Planning) said: "Thousands of people in our district are in temporary or unsuitable accommodation.
"This is a figure we all, as a community, should want to reduce.
"The Local Plan presses developers to aim for 40 per cent affordable housing on each site – defined as housing for those who cannot afford to buy or rent at the market value.
"It can be delivered through a registered provider, like a housing association, or through the council directly. We have a good record of achieving close to this figure.
"Local businesses struggle to recruit staff. Since potential employees cannot afford to live here and, in many cases, cannot afford to travel here there is a recruitment crisis in our district.
"Businesses will not stay locally and will not relocate here when there are other areas where the supply of staff is plentiful.
COUNCIL 'PROUD' OF LOCAL PLAN
"Development is rarely popular with everybody but we will, as a council and a community, fail future generations in terms of housing, the environment and jobs if we fail to address the housing issue.
"We are proud that we are doing so and making our district a district where future generations can live, work, have families of their own and see their children and grandchildren continuing to grow while being part of our community."