80 new homes in Nidderdale rejected as councillors pledge to protect natural beauty

Darley's Sheepcote Lane, where one of the applications was rejected.
Darley's Sheepcote Lane, where one of the applications was rejected.

More than 80 new homes proposed for the village of Darley have been rejected as councillors pledged to protect the Nidderdale Area Of Natural Beauty from "erosion" at the hands of developers.

Harrogate's planning committee voted unanimously to dump two proposals for developments near the village - the first being a proposal for 29 homes on Sheepcote Lane, and the second a 60-home plan for Walker Lane.

Clerk of Darley and Menwith Parish Councils, Martin Pearson, spoke on both the items, saying that there were "no exceptional situations" which would warrant developing AONB land.

He added that Darley's bus network was unsuitable for commuters, while the village has just one doctor's service which was likely to close in the next 18 months.

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A representative for the applicant however said that the village had all the necessities to support expansion - including a pub, a shop and a school.

He added that the council had initially supported the area for development by including it in their draft local plan, before removing it from the updated version earlier this year.

However, councillors disagreed with his statements, voicing concerns over local services and public transport.

Coun Pat Marsh said protecting the Nidderdale region was more important than expanding the village, given the amount of visitors the area attracted.

"It's about protecting what we're almost taking for granted, our AONB that surrounds us," she said.

"If we gradually allow the erosion of that, we lose what brings thousands of people here."

Both had originally been included in Harrogater's draft local plan which dictates where thousands of homes will be built over the coming two decades, but were removed earlier this year after a Government Inspector recommended they be deleted from the plan.

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In a report on the matter, council officers wrote that both developments represented "major development within the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) on a site that is located outside the development limits for the village".

Any development "would have a detrimental and harmful impact upon both the form and setting of the village and the landscape character of the area" with the "AONB having been afforded the strictest level of protection".

It made it a straight-forward decision for councillors, who unanimously rejected both applications.

Government Inspector Richard Schofield, who is currently analysing Harrogate's draft local plan, said earlier this year that proposed development at Darley represented a "very significant" intrusion on AONB land.

"I am not persuaded that such a test could be passed in relation to development proposals for these sites, particularly given the, in some cases very significant, landscape harm likely to arise from them," he wrote in March.

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter