Harrogate Local Plan: Doubts raised over whether Harrogate's ancient sewer system could cope with thousands of new homes

Doubts have been raised as to whether Harrogate's ancient sewer system could cope with the new housing developments.
Doubts have been raised as to whether Harrogate's ancient sewer system could cope with the new housing developments.

Fears the development of thousands of homes south-west of Harrogate will overload the town’s Victorian-era sewerage systems and worsen traffic congestion have been heard at a planning hearing on Tuesday.

Local Plan: Mathematical error identified in Harrogate housing blueprint
The 3,767 dwellings proposed in Harrogate’s draft local plan primarily for Harlow and Pannal Ash – described as “the western arc” by residents at the hearing – dominated proceedings in the morning’s session on housing allocations for Harrogate, Knaresborough and Ripon.

Key in the proposed developments was site H51 – a nearly 50 hectare parcel of agricultural land east of Lady Lane designed for employment and residential use, with space for up to 690 homes.

Rene Dziabas and David Siddens, representing Harlow and Panal Ash Residents Association, expressed concerns that the region’s infrastructure would struggle to cope with the influx of thousands of extra homes and people on Harrogate’s outskirt.

Mr Siddens stated that it seemed to “defy logic” that the homes would be built on the south-western edge, when the employment hotspots of Wetherby, York and Leeds were to the east or south.

MP Andrew Jones ‘very concerned’ over plan to cut Harrogate school’s funding
He added that he feared the development would therefore “pull” additional traffic through Harrogate’s already congested centre.

“The sheer level of development (means it) is highly car dependent…no matter what bus routes you put there, people will still use their car,” Mr Dziabas followed.

Mr Dziabas said that the proposed developments were essentially a new settlement, partly caused by the green belt which prevented swathes of land being developed in Harrogate’s east.

“We believe than what is being considered in western half of Harrogate is nothing less than a settlement,” he said.

Additional concerns were levelled by Kathryn Jukes of Directions Planning, representing Harrogate-based millionaire Dr Terry Bramall, who said the development would mean an “awful lot of new toilets”.

“The problem that we’re actually faced with is that the sewerage system we actually have is inherited from Victorians when Harrogate was first built,” Ms Jukes said.

She said that as it stands the system was “actually at capacity at the moment”, and extending it would be difficult.

“The problem with the sewerage system is that it can not be extended easily…trying to increase that capacity is a task and a half given the length of pipework that is involved,” the consultant said.

Harrogate Local Plan Brief: What happens next?
Representatives of developers Gladman and Banks group defended the location and accessibility of the site.

The two firms have the largest stakes in H51 – with Gladman promoting 28 hectares and the Banks Group 12.

Representing the Banks Group, Justin Hancock said the south-west proposals were a natural extension of the town and “not a new settlement”.

“Harrogate is by far the most sustainable of the main settlements,” he added.

He said the plan “takes into account all the facilities nearby” – citing three train stations in the area, as well as developer plans to provide a new primary school and improved cycle and pedestrian links.

He said that a beefed up bus route would also be added to the area – a claim supported by Harrogate Borough Council’s principle planning policy manager Tracey Rathmell.

Local Plan: Debate underway on blueprint which will shape Harrogate over next 20 years
The six and X6 service currently service the area, but Ms Rathmell cited a letter from a local bus company which stated the “level of development proposed in west of local plan should improve the service”, with an added route likely.

Ms Rathmell also addressed sewage concerns, saying that “Yorkshire Water was fully aware of the level of planning” occurring in the west.

“We are aware there does need to be improvements to the sewerage network and to waste water treatment works, but (Yorkshire Water) haven’t indicated that would preclude development,” she said.

“I fully expect for that to be a managed process in time with their time scales.”

It was a sentiment echoed by Diane Richardson, representing developers Gladman.

Jailed ex-deputy mayor of Knaresborough must pay back over £100,000 stolen from church
She conceded that Yorkshire Water “does not have sufficient capacity as it stands” but was confident the need would be developed “in due course”, as obliged by legislation.

Ms Richardson added that the developments proximity to the nearby Cardale business park was another boost for the business.

In summarising to government-appointed planning inspector Richard Schofield why the west was suitable for development, council’s chief planner Ms Rathmell said the location meant they would avoid digging into green belt around the other side of Harrogate.

“Land availability is a factor, also we have green belt towards the east and south…we think that developing the south-west of town negates the need to go into the greenbelt,” she said.

It prompted Paul Brown QC, representing the council, to ask if he “could turn the question around” and imagine the council were asking for the release of green belt sites, which requires “exceptional circumstances”.

The hearings into the local place continue on Thursday, when the housing allocation for villages in the district is scrutinised.

Video: Delve into the sewers of Harrogate - the blockage hotspot
Lachlan Leeming , Local Democracy Reporting Service