Dear Reader: Tsunami of new housing + running into trouble

Dark future? Harrogate residents at a field off  Whinney Lane where more housing is scheduled to be built.
Dark future? Harrogate residents at a field off Whinney Lane where more housing is scheduled to be built.

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

It felt a bit odd tredding on ground which may shortly be no more, though my biggest worry was not getting my shoes dirty as I stepped on the patch of land where the latest swathe of new housing sweeping the Harrogate district will possibly be built.

Monday found me in the company of a resident who seemed pretty angry about what was happening to the farm lands between Whinney Lane, Lady Lane and Beckwith Head Road.

He’d lived in this part of Harrogate for 50 years and the grass below our feet has been fields as long as anyone could remember.

Despite the tsunami of new developments coming the Harrogate district’s way as the council aim to hit an incredible target of 14,000 new houses, residents are still fighting over each square metre of ground.

The well-informed householder I was talking to in the drizzly winter light was utterly focused on the problem of road access for this particular possible future development of 40 houses.

It was caused partly, Colin Elliff said, by a lack of collaboration between two different developers in neighbouring fields.
Not so much bad planning as the absence of it.

Truth be told, when I went for a look off Beckwith Road the space for any new road did seem a bit tight.

But this is almost to miss the point.

When the days of winding country lanes and trotting horses come to an end in this part of Harrogate’s semi-countryside, the real culprits will be found sitting 216 miles away at Westminster.

Once central government relaxed planning rules nationally over housing, it was always bound to spell the end of a level playing field.

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We British are often described as “eccentric” as whole but, as individuals we like to think we’re totally normal.

I know there’s nothing odd about me, not even when I put on my base layer, running shirt, tracksuit bottoms, tracksuit top, beanie hat and old running shoes to run round a field in Starbeck in the pitch black four times a week.

It’s not just the elements which present a regular challenge in my battle back to fitness.
I also have to contend with water-logged grass, lumps of mud and frozen ground as I embark on these huff and puff sessions.

What’s more, unseen forces tend to lurk in the dark.
With only two tiny spotlights in my hat to illuminate the the murky darkness, most of the time I’ve got no idea what’s around me as I plough grimly on.

The other night I surprised myself while running by accidentally flicking a large dollop of turf and mud gently off the back of my foot.

At least that’s what I thought it was until I heard a whizz and saw the dim outline of a tiny dog speeding past me.

What was annoying wasn’t the fact this frisky little pet had clearly been trying to nibble at my heels, it was the fact the fluffy pooch was much faster than me.