Inquiry decision due in February

Campaigners face a nervy few weeks as they wait for a final decision on whether to allow more than 200 houses to be built on the Harrogate and Wetherby border.

Monday, 23rd December 2019, 10:26 am

At a meeting back in September, members of Harrogate’s planning committee voted to refuse the application for 210 homes at Spofforth Hill, Stockeld, with the decision met with a round of applause from a packed council chamber.

But this meant the authority now had to fight its case at a public inquiry, after applicants Hallam Land Management and Stockeld Park lodged an appeal against non-determination after their plan was stalled last year.

The hearing, led by a government planning inspector, heard evidence from Tuesday to Friday last week. While Harrogate Council confirmed no decision is expected to be made yet, it is understood an announcement is expected towards the end of February.

It follows claims from campaign group Better Wetherby, which state the plans could only bring problems for the area and its infrastructure.

While the site sits within Harrogate Borough Council’s boundaries, the development itself is adjacent to the town of Wetherby, which falls within Leeds City Council borders.

Last year the controversial application was initially rejected by Harrogate councillors, before legal advice received in a private session saw them perform an abrupt U-turn and approve the plans.

The move provoked outrage from Wetherby residents and led to Elmet and Rothwell MP Alec Shelbrooke lobbying the Secretary of State to reject the proposal. The application was subsequently frozen while the office of the Secretary of State for Housing - which saw applicants Hallam Land Management and Stockeld Park lodge an appeal for indecision. The Secretary of State decided in May to leave the proposal to Harrogate council to decide.

Better Wetherby representatives played an active part in the inquiry.

The Public Inquiry, chaired by Mr Bryn Bowker, took evidence from the Appellants, Harrogate Borough Council and Better Wetherby.

Paul Crossan, who headed representations for Better Wetherby at the Inquiry said: “This was an intensive four days, but we were pleased to have had the opportunity to make a strong case to have the appeal rejected.

“Harrogate Borough Council made it clear that they have an emerging Local Plan to fully meet their housing needs until 2035. The Stockeld Park development is not in that plan and is just not needed.

“Better Wetherby totally supported that stance and pointed out to the Inspector that Leeds City Council also have more than adequate provision in their Local Plan and also recently approved the building of 800 new houses in Wetherby.”

Campaigners have turned out in force at meetings to make their feelings clear.

Mr Crossan added: “We made the Inspector aware of our serious concerns about the adverse impact the Stockeld Park development would have on Wetherby and our neighbours in surrounding villages should the appeal be allowed.

“This application is both unwelcome and unjustified, attracting several hundred objections from local people.

“Not only will it be transformational and harmful to the landscape, character and local environment, it will contribute to a worsening of Wetherby’s existing highways, congestion and air pollution problems and place further pressures on overburdened schools, doctors and other local services.”