Government inspector tells Harrogate council to scrap 11 housing sites from its proposed Local Plan

Harrogate has been told to reduce the number of homes it is planning to build.
Harrogate has been told to reduce the number of homes it is planning to build.

The Government inspector tasked with scrutinising Harrogate Borough Council's draft local plan has advised that 11 sites - containing more than 1000 proposed homes - be deleted from the blueprint, in his first round of feedback on the crucial document.

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In a letter to the council's executive officer of policy and place, inspector Richard Schofield stated the current plan includes "a large excess of housing allocations over and above the level required" to meet the borough's Objectively Assessed Need (OAN) for housing.

He then states that sites recommended for deletion should be "read in the context of the plan's considerable oversupply of housing".

The largest site he advised be removed was PN19 - a block of agricultural land west of Leeds Road at Pannal, with a potential yield of 277 homes.

"Site PN19 is extensive," he wrote.

"It is, in my view, markedly at odds with the size of Pannal and would be likely to result in a disproportionate addition to the village.
"It would advance the edge of Pannal to such an extent that, to all intents and purposes, the village would coalesce with Harrogate."

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He also found that development at fellow Pannal site PN17 "would be likely to cause significant landscape harm and harm to heritage assets".

Developments at Pateley Bridge (P1, P5 and P10), Darley (DR14), Dacre Banks (DB5) and Summerbridge (SB1) were rejected largely due to the developments being within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Mr Schofield referred back to national planning policy, which he said made it clear that only "exceptional circumstances" would warrant development on AONB land.

"I am not persuaded that such a test could be passed in relation to development proposals for these sites, particularly given the, in some cases very significant, landscape harm likely to arise from them," he wrote.

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He also stated the Pateley Bridge proposals were harmed by the reduction of bus services in the area since the plan was submitted.

"This calls into question the appropriateness of planning for major development on this route," he said.

Land at Aldborough Gate, Boroughbridge (B21) was rejected due to the "sensitivity and importance of the extensive area of Roman archaeology" which could more likely than not to be of national importance".

Likewise, site HM9 at Hampsthwaite was in a "very prominent and exposed site on the edge of the AONB".

"Development here would be likely to give rise to harm to landscape and heritage assets," he wrote.

Lastly, a site north of Swinton Road at Masham (M8) was rejected due to the potential of the development impacting on l'Anson mill opposite.

While conceding that mitigations could be put in place to allow for development, Mr Schofield said its proximity to the mill made it "seem prudent to me to take a precautionary approach at this stage".

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Mr Schofield said the removal of the developments from the plan was manageable given the surplus of housing budgeted for in the draft plan.

"Thus, given the level of housing supply and the, in many cases acknowledged, harm that is likely to arise from the above proposed allocations, I consider that to make the plan sound they should be deleted," he wrote.

"The housing requirement could easily be met even with their removal and there has been no suggestion that five-year housing land supply would be compromised."

The inspector also recommended the council carry out additional sustainability appraisals around potential sites for a new village.

"I consider that it would be sensible for the council to undertake additional work in this regard," he wrote.

"In short, for it to assess broad locations around each of the proposed potential sites.

"I may comment further on the matter of the proposed new settlement in due course, if I deem it necessary in light of the additional work."

MORE TO COME.

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter