Dear Reader: Celebrity spotting + new affordable housing solution

Here comes a name drop. Not so long ago, veteran broadcaster and award-winning journalist Katie Adie told me to my face across the table at the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate that I was 'observant.'

Friday, 20th April 2018, 5:34 pm
Updated Friday, 20th April 2018, 5:36 pm
Lead singer Gus Unger-Hamilton, right, of 'Leeds' band Alt-J.

Of course, my track record speaks for itself.There was the time I spotted dark-eyed actor Rufus Sewell in the bar at the Filmhouse cinema in Edinburgh.I once had a chat with The Damned Utd author David Peace while the support act was playing at a Nick Cave gig at Leeds University,And I have to mention the time I strode across the lounge of Leningrad airport to say “hello” to The Beatles’ first manager Allan Williams, a man I recognised solely from a small black and white photograph I’d seen a decade earlier.So when I spotted the lead singer of the band Alt-J at a literary launch upstairs in Waterstones in Harrogate recently, I simply had to take the plunge again.If you’re wondering who Alt-J are, they famously won the Mercury Prize in 2012.What I wanted to do was quiz the ‘alt indie’ star with his trademark glasses and moustache on why his group always mentioned they were from Leeds but never Harrogate where their origins lay partly.But first I had to cross the room full of publishing types and networking book lovers to introduce myself. “Hello. Are you Gus Unger-Hamilton?” I asked proffering my hand.“No,” he replied with a puzzled look.

Seven hundred? Seven hundred new homes for Lady Lane with its sheep-filled fields?Not an unusual development these days, though, this rural road on the outskirts of Harrogate isn’t even suited for the amount of cars it carries at the moment.I’m being selfish, of course. For Lady Lane just happens to lie 400 yards from where I am currently writing this column in our newspaper office at Cardale Park.Should the plans go-ahead, it will be employees like me whose car journeys will suffer.But what really matters, obviously, is what percentage of any new housing will be affordable.On recent experience, the precedents are not good, so I was pleased to receive an email from a reader who suggested a new possible solution might lie in a detailed study conducted by the Federation of Master Builders FMB called “Homes in the High Street.”Helpfully, the reader not only points out that our district contains many empty shops whose derelict upper floors could be converted into affordable apartments, he also pinpoints which streets in Harrogate, Knaresborough and Ripon boast said empty properties currently.Maybe this would help, maybe not. Is it likely to happen? Once upon a time it might have.But times change, as do the resources, the politics and, perhaps, most crucially of all, the will.