Campaigners say controversial Wetherby housing scheme 'would present danger to road users'

A controversial housing scheme in Wetherby would lead to extra traffic congestion and present a danger to road users, campaigners told a public inquiry today.

Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 7:08 pm
Updated Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 7:09 pm
Campaigners in Wetherby.

Spokesmen for the Better Wetherby Partnership, a residents’ action group which opposes the plans for 210 new homes on the outskirts of the town, told a Government planning inspector that the development would exacerbate existing traffic problems at several major junctions due to the extra traffic generated by the proposed development.

They had already voiced concerns about what they claim would be an intolerable strain on local services such as “overburdened” schools and GP surgeries.

The four-day inquiry, held by the Planning Inspectorate, began in earnest today at the Civic Centre in Harrogate, where members of Better Wetherby and officials from Stockeld Park and Hallam Land Management Ltd put their cases forward in the council chamber.

The inquiry follows an appeal by the housing developer against Harrogate Borough Council’s decision to reject the plans in September, when councilors on the Planning Committee voted unanimously against the application.

The Better Wetherby Partnership is contesting the appeal on several grounds, not least traffic “ramifications”.

Stockeld Park/Hallam are disputing the council’s reasons for rejecting their bid, one of which was fears that it would affect road safety in the area surrounding the planned development site on an open field at Stockeld on Harrogate Road.

Greg Jones, a traffic consultant for the housing company, claimed fears over traffic congestion and road safety had been allayed after the developer had entered into a “Section 106” agreement with Leeds City Council to provide money and make provisions for road improvements and traffic-calming measures.

He claimed that Harrogate Borough Council was now “satisfied that its concerns (regarding traffic issues) had been addressed”.

He said that “dedicated left turns”, widening of the carriageway from the mini-roundabout on Spofforth Hill and improved pedestrian crossings would alleviate any potential dangers and reduce extra traffic queuing, which the action group said was inevitable.

He added that the developer had put forward proposals to head off traffic-flow problems at the Linton Road junction.

The Better Wetherby group refutes the claim that any of the proposed traffic-calming measures had been endorsed by Leeds City or any other local authority.

Paul Crossan, spokesman for Better Wetherby, claimed that mini-roundabouts and junctions along the A661 Spofforth Hill would become clogged with traffic due to hundreds more vehicles journeys to and from the site each day.

The housing developer said the estimated 208 car journeys to and from the site at peak times would be mitigated by car-sharing.

But Mr Crossan claimed the highways authority still had “severe concerns about this development in terms of (extra traffic affecting on surrounding roads)”.

“This is an isolated site,” he added. “The queues at certain junctions are (already) severe from a market-town perspective.”

He claimed queues at major junctions such as Linton Road could be doubled at the very least due to the impact of the proposed housing scheme.

Mark Smith, of the action group, said they considered the proposed traffic-calming measures “inadequate”.

The group also raised fears for “vulnerable” pedestrians, namely children and the elderly, crossing the A661 near Wentworth Gate in a “busy” area near the proposed site and an existing housing development on a stretch of road that was currently unpaved.

Mr Jones, for the developer, said they would be making money available for an extension of the footpath and improvements to the bus stops near the “unmanned” pedestrian crossing point.

But Mr Crosasn said: “The people of Wetherby are extremely concerned about this ongoing traffic that is constantly going from east to west, and west to east.”

He added: “Better Wetherby is challenging this appeal because if it is successful and the development is allowed to go ahead, then it can only be bad news for the people of Wetherby and those living in nearby villages.

“We know they have real concerns about the harmful impact this development will have on the landscape, character (of the town) and our local environment.

“It will also contribute to a worsening of the town’s existing highways, congestion and air-pollution problems and result in further demands on already-overburdened schools, GP surgeries and other local services.

“There is absolutely no justification for this development. Both Harrogate Borough Council and Leeds City Council have more-than-adequate housing provision in their plans for the several years ahead. These houses are just not needed by Harrogate, Leeds or Wetherby.”

Tomorrow, there will be a site visit to the proposed development land, followed by further discussions about the potential effect on the local landscape, road network and ecological considerations.

The inquiry is due to end on Friday but a decision on the appeal is not expected until February.