In depth: Has planning system failed amid 'madness' of Harrogate house building at Kingsley and elsewhere

A group of Harrogate residents - in despair at the prospect of a seventh new housing development in four years on their doorstep - say their situation is living proof that the town’s planning system is failing.

By Graham Chalmers
Monday, 28th February 2022, 11:30 am
The plan for 181 new houses is the latest in a long wave of housing developments in the Kingsley area of Harrogate by a variety of different house building companies.
The plan for 181 new houses is the latest in a long wave of housing developments in the Kingsley area of Harrogate by a variety of different house building companies.

Having been under siege from almost non-stop house building with noise, dirt, disruption, road closures and rumbling lorries, members of Kingsley Ward Action Group were hoping a public meeting with developers would offer reassurance that some kind of control would be brought to the chaos.

Persimmon’s development of Kingsley Farm seems to be the final straw for local residents who have seen hundreds of new homes appear on their doorstep since 2018.

Sign up to our daily Harrogate Advertiser Today newsletter

But, after last Thursday’s crowded and emotionally-charged event, the group says it has now lost faith in the planning system and will be stepping up its campaign as green land in their part of Harrogate disappears one application at a time.

The Persimmon plan is the latest in a long wave of piecemeal housing developments in the Kingsley area by a variety of different house building companies.

John Hansard, from Kingsley Ward Action Group, said: “There were some impassioned comments on the road and traffic impact of this development as well as the number of houses about to be built on this field.

“We think that Persimmon were a bit taken aback by the strength of feeling among local people about the proposed development.

“We feel emboldened by this event and are confident that we will have some very relevant points to raise at the next planning meeting.”

As wind and rain lashed the roof of the Welcome Centre at St Andrew’s Church in Starbeck during Storm Eunice, emotions were running high in a crowd of nearly 100.

Maura Millichap, who lives on Bogs Lane, told the meeting, which was chaired by Lib Dem councillor for Starbeck, Philip Broadbank, that the lack of consideration for residents’ daily lives was “utter madness”.

“Why haven’t developers sat down with the local council and just planned the infrastructure we need? There’s been no coordination,” she said. “All we get is heavy lorries, digging and temporary road closures. It all contributes to the utter madness of living here.”

Under fire from angry members of the crowd, Paul Butler, an agent for the developers, patiently explained in great detail how Persimmon had scaled back the number of houses from 217 in the previous application rejected in August 2021 by Harrogate Borough Council’s planning committee to 181 and had addressed all the issues raised by councillors.

Graham Whiteford, from Persimmon Homes, said the developer was “proud” of their revised plans and, added, “it’s unusual for Persimmon to have this amount of green space”.

Mr Butler said Persimmon now planned a “low density” development including:

Fewer large houses;

More open space;

New trees;

New hedgerows;

Two parking spaces for each new house.

When members of the audience complained that, so far, there had been no new infrastructure or new access roads in an area which was already a rat-run for drivers seeking to avoid Knaresborough Road, Persimmon pointed out that developers were meeting the national rules as delivered by Harrogate’s planning department, North Yorkshire County Councils’ highways officers and Harrogate’s Local Plan.

With a potential finishing date of 2028 if Persimmon’s plans are approved, by the time diggers finally fall silent in their area, Kingsley residents will have endured nearly ten years of chaos.

Residents are in no mood to be conciliatory and intend to turn their campaign towards local authorities.

Mr Hansard added: “We need to have another public meeting and invite highways officers from North Yorkshire County Council and Harrogate Borough Council planners to be accountable for their decisions.”

Local authorities say planning system is doing its job in terms of new infrastructure

Complaints by residents in the Kingsley area of Harrogate that the town’s planning system and its Local Plan are failing to prevent what they claim is the chaos of housing developments are disputed by the local authorities.

Both North Yorkshire County Council and Harrogate Borough Council argue the infrastructure required to cope with the impact of mass development in areas like Kingsley is addressed fully by the system in place.

Coun Don Mackenzie, the county council’s executive member for transport, said: “We are a key consultee in every planning application. When large residential planning proposals are received by Harrogate Borough Council’s planning department, relevant county council officers will provide guidance on matters relating to education and school places, health and adult social care, and, of course, on travel and transport.”

A spokesperson for Harrogate Borough Council said: “There is a clear need for new housing in the Harrogate district and the Local Plan we adopted in 2020 establishes how and where these should be built to meet these requirements. In preparing the Local Plan we carried out traffic modelling work to look at the impact on the existing highway network and identify future public transport provision in the area.”

Like other residents’ groups and parish councils across the Harrogate district, Kingsley Ward Action Group says, whatever the intention, the results so far are:

A massive over-expansion of housing in inappropriate areas;

Virtually no new infrastructure so far to compensate for the growth of population and cars;

The lack of coherent planning for the end result.

Coun Mackenzie says he understands residents’ frustrations during construction but says each separate planning permission in the Kingsley area was granted with appropriate plans to fund highway improvements, provide new footpaths and cycling infrastructure.

But he could offer no timetable for new infrastructure and admitted he envisaged that neither in the Kingsley area nor West Harrogate would the county be calling for new roads to be built.

In addition, there would be no ‘big bang’ of infrastructure. That simply isn’t how the system works.

Coun Mackenzie said: “Each planning application is conditioned in such a way that cumulative improvements will take place as permissions are granted and housing numbers grow.”

Will new West Harrogate Parameters Plan turn separate housing sites into communities?

The long-awaited West Harrogate Parameters Plan (WHPP) was approved this week with a pledge by local authorities that it “provides a clear vision for new housing development” between Otley Road and Pannal.

Speaking after Harrogate Borough Council approved the WHPP on Tuesday, Coun Tim Myatt, Harrogate council’s cabinet member for planning, said: “The West Harrogate Parameters Plan will ensure we have the necessary infrastructure to support these future communities on the west side of Harrogate, including two new primary schools, four playing pitches, and two new local centres for shops and health services.

“There will also be land designated for employment, as well as new cycle lanes, footpaths and bus routes.”

The WHPP identifies what infrastructure is required to support future communities in west Harrogate and will be used for assessing the planning merits of development schemes with a series of key design principles.

These include:

Walking, cycling and public transport;

Facilities and services to create vibrant neighbourhoods;

Well-defined streets;

A neighbourhood that is easy to navigate;

Accommodating cycle and car parking.

Groups such as Harlow and Pannal Ash Residents’ Association and Pannal and Burn Bridge Parish Council are, in particular, concerned at the impact housing developments will pose for traffic congestion, claim the WHPP is offering aspirations rather than solutions.

But Harrogate council says it is now working with North Yorkshire County Council on a West Harrogate Infrastructure Delivery Strategy to meet these precise worries.

Coun Myatt said: “Now that the WHPP has been approved, we need to begin the detailed work about how it should be delivered at the right time to ensure high-quality and sustainable communities.”