Harrogate Local plan: Inspector’s concerns over developments surrounding Ripon sinkholes

The latest sinkhole to appear in Ripon was behind the Sainsbury's supermarket.
The latest sinkhole to appear in Ripon was behind the Sainsbury's supermarket.

The Government-appointed inspector overseeing the hearings into Harrogate’s draft local plan has voiced his concerns over Ripon’s history of sinkholes.

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Richard Schofield, who is chairing the scrutinising process, quizzed developers and Harrogate Borough Council on the status of gypsum deposits in the city, following concerns raised by Ripon City Councillors about developments allocated in the local plan.

Mr Schofield acknowledged that while developers wouldn’t build houses in vulnerable areas following their own investigations, his “concern is having any of the site at risk”.

“You don’t really want sinkholes opening up under children’s playgrounds,” he said.

Mr Schofield later added that the area of concern highlighted in council’s local plan was “basically the whole of Ripon”.

The council’s principal planning policy manager Tracey Rathmell said the issue of sinkholes would not rule out development, but would require in-depth work from applicants.

“It is a problem in Ripon, but it hasn’t precluded developments coming forward, but obviously there is work to be done on behalf of the applicants to demonstrate they can come forward and be stable,” she said.

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“It doesn’t preclude development, but it does require extensive investigations.”

Ms Rathmall added that the council was experienced in dealing with the issue.

“The approach that we take in dealing with this issue in Ripon dates back to research commissioned by the then-Department of Environment,” she said.

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“We have also had discussions fairly recently with the British Geological Society doing a further research project into this issue.

“We’re not suggesting it’s not without its challenges but we do feel we have the necessary policies in place to make sure development conforms with what is safe.”

Lachlan Leeming , Local Democracy Reporting Service