Fears of house building free-for-all as council withdraws local plan

Harrogate Council offices at Crescent Gardens.
Harrogate Council offices at Crescent Gardens.

Developers have already started to eye up more housing sites in the district, councillors say, after Harrogate’s local plan was withdrawn.

Harrogate Borough Council decided to withdraw its local plan last night (Wednesday June 19), some two months after a government inspector blasted it as inadequate.

The council voted unanimously to withdraw the local plan which has been years in the making, though councillors expressed concern that a planning free-for-all could take place while a new plan is drafted.

It is estimated it will take three years to prepare a new local plan.

Coun David Goode (Lib Dem, Knaresborough King James) said: “We already have a problem with speculative developers pouncing on Harrogate and Knaresborough to exploit the current situation. One can only believe given tonight’s decision that the situation will get worse.”

Newly appointed Cabinet member for planning and deputy Council leader, Coun Michael Harrison (Con, Killinghall) agreed last week to appoint external consultants, Edge Analytics to work on the next local plan.

Conservative Coun Ivor Fox (Scriven Park) urged the cabinet to ensure that the council uses its budget reserves to fight unsuitable developments.

“There are developers already in this room taking notes. We need to take them on, head on, and they do not hesitate to spend, spend, spend.”

Planning committee member Coun Chris Lewis (Ind, Ouseburn) asked for more training for councillors on the NPPF and the implications of the council not having a five year supply of housing.

“We should be kept up to date with planning appeals so we know if we are likely to win or lose housing appeals.”

“There are going to be some very uncomfortable decisions for us and I think we should know which applications are worth fighting.”

Last month Harrogate Councillors voted to ask for an extension from the government planning inspector, Phillip Ware who replied that this was not an acceptable option.

Coun Harrison said the council did the right thing by trying to stand by the original plan.

He said: “I don’t think we should be too hard one ourselves for asking for time, it was absolutely the right decision to explore all our options.

“It was unashamedly a hope for housing restraint but that is not acceptable anymore, that message is loud and clear. There is a need for fresh ideas.”