Harrogate councillors forced to approve controversial Knaresborough development over legal concerns
A highly controversial housing development at Knaresborough has been approved despite fears it was the latest in a "feeding frenzy" of rushed proposals by big developers.
Frustrated councillors debated for two hours before eventually approving the 175-dwelling application at Bar Lane, amid concerns over traffic, pollution and over-development around the historic market town.
Harrogate's planning committee councillors repeatedly expressed their frustration at the lack of a local plan to guide planning decisions. Consultation on Harrogate's draft local plan is due to begin next week.Voting in favour of the application, Coun Nigel Simms (Cons) said the lack of framework meant he would have to support it: “The fact is we don't have a local plan so therefore we have to go work with the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) as the government has written it down, and I can't see anything wrong with it”.
His views were echoed by Coun Pat Marsh (Lib Dems), who also supported the proposal.
“I too have struggled with this because I can't find any reasons to refuse it. Until we can get this local plan over the line we are in a position (where we) have to approve them. I'm left with what else can I refuse this on?" she said.
However Coun Jim Clarke (Cons) said he couldn't support what he viewed as the latest in a "feeding frenzy" of applications ahead of a local plan being adopted.
"I feel for this to be pushed in at the last minute, just before we start consideration of our local plan...I think it's rather jumping the gun," he said.
“I think there has been a feeding frenzy of applications to get them in before the actual local plan goes.”
Off the back of a motion by Coun Bernard Bateman to reject the proposal, councillors cobbled together six points: that it was outside of an identified development area, council already has a five year land supply, pollution concerns, its open countryside location, safety concerns, and a loss of provision for disabled people due to the shifting of a Riding for the Disabled centre off the site.
However, they were advised by the council's legal officer that those grounds for rejection "is not going to be sustainable" and would result in a successful claim for costs from applicants Gladman Developments.
"Cumulatively and individually none (of those reasons) will survive,” the legal officer said.
It led to frustration from several councillors, with Coun Sam Gibbs asking: "How long does this go on for?"
He added that his view was to reject the application on the spot - rather than defer or approve it.
He was supported by Coun Bateman, who added: "I think this committee should make the decisions and not other people”.
Motions to reject or defer the proposal were subsequently lost, with the original motion for approval returning, with the added condition of an additional access for pedestrians and cyclists on Coun Marsh's urging.
This time it went through: six councillors voting for and six against, with committee chair Coun John Mann using his casting vote to approve the application.
Ahead of the debate, Knaresborough mayor Coun Phil Ireland and Knaresborough Scriven Park ward member Coun Sue Mearns both spoke in opposition to the proposal.Coun Mearns took particular umbrage at planners using section 11 of the NPPF to advise the project for approval.
According to the planners, although HBC can currently demonstrate a supply of land for housing to last 5.18 years this amount 'is marginal and it will be important to take steps to maintain it.'
Because of this section 11 of the National Planning Policy Framework would still need to be applied to justify the approval of extra housing.
"By engaging paragraph 11 unnecessarily it only serves to prematurely deprive Knaresborough residents of yet another swathe of greenfield land," she said.
Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporting Service