Plan for 210 homes could see school children 'bussed from Wetherby into Harrogate'

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A decision over a contentious development for 210 homes on the border of Harrogate and Wetherby has been deferred until further talks have been held “behind closed doors”.

At the planning committee meeting on Tuesday, 11 out of 13 councillors voted to refuse the application by Hallam Land Management for the field just off Harrogate Road in Stockeld.

But following the decision Harrogate Borough Council’s legal officer said that the application would have to be “pulled in under special measures of the constitution” and that the meeting would have to be deferred until the committee had received an exempt report.

Councillor Jim Clark (Conservative, Harlow ward) voted to refuse the application. He said: “It seems you wish to cloak our final decision in secrecy and that shouldn’t be the way of determining anything, whether you are for something or against it. We should be acting democratically and be seen to be acting democratically, not making decisions behind closed doors.”

The application has received 286 objections since it was submitted to the council, with the majority of those representations made by residents in Wetherby and Leeds.

During the meeting, the committee heard representations from Wetherby Ward Councillor Alan Lamb, Wetherby Mayor Councillor Galan Moss and residents.

Coun Galan Moss who raised concerns about pressures on the health amenities such as GPs and dentists in Wetherby which were described as “suffering a lack of investment” as well as growing traffic issues.

Wetherby Ward Councillor Alan Lamb (Conservative) described the development as “an extension of Wetherby” and said approving the application would “set a dangerous precedent for the future”.

He said: “New residents would feel that they were living in Wetherby, they would expect to access services in Wetherby, but they would have no democratic influence over those services and facilities and they would contribute nothing towards them through their local taxes.”

He added: “It seems the one and only reason for recommending approval is the lack of a five year land supply and the fear of being taken to appeal. That should never be a reason for recommendation.”

Coun Lamb also said that the issues raised with the application “would not be mitigated by the token pots of money on offer”.

Harrogate Borough Councillors Jim Clark and Bernard Bateman (Conservative) also noted serious concerns about pressures on education in Harrogate if the development was to go ahead.

Councillors were told that as part of the application North Yorkshire County Council had agreed to find educational provision for two thirds of students who will live within the development.

The other third would have provision by Leeds City Council.

Coun Clark said: “It’s beyond belief. We are bussing secondary school pupils across Harrogate.

“This just seems nonsense that we’re now going to say to people who live in my ward at a school nearest to them, an outstanding school, are going to lose out on places to people who live in Wetherby.

“This is very bad news for the people of Harrogate and I think it attacks the very integrity of our local plan. I think we should be very careful about allowing this to go ahead.

“If we push this through it will be a victory of bureaucracy over democracy and we can’t allow that to happen.”

Coun Alan Lamb told the committee that he had objected to plans at another site which is currently under construction on Spofforth Hill.

He said: “We objected to that site on education grounds - of the 25 dwellings constructed, I am already getting case work from those families who cannot get into the local primary schools.”