'Bitter disappointment' over ruling on controversial housing plans for Harrogate village

Residents of a Harrogate village were left '˜bitterly disappointed' after an 80 home development cleared a major planning hurdle.

Green Hammerton
Green Hammerton

Harrogate Borough Council’s Planning Committee has voted to defer and approve, subject to conditions, the site on New Lane in Green Hammerton.

More than 280 objections were submitted against the plans for the greenfield site, put forward by developer Loxley Homes Ltd, including one from Chair of Green Hammerton Parish Council, Ian Bailes.

Speaking at the meeting he said: “I have been living in the village for 40 years, and been a member of the Parish Council for 25 years and I am staggered at the decision taken by officers to recommend approval.

“Not only does this site lie outside the natural village parameter, the development on this side will form a natural extension of the housing boundary into green fields and be highly visible.“When you already know that the current facilities in the village are at capacity, there is clearly a problem. The school has 100 pupils, of which some have their lessons in the dining hall and temporary classrooms.”

He said the decision should have at least been delayed until Harrogate Borough Council had finalised its Local Plan, and crucially decided on where 3,000 new homes would be built.“This site is not included in the Local Plan,” he added. “They wish to have 3,000 houses built in the immediate area of Green Hammerton, and this has yet to be tested. If approved it makes the need for this development, unwarranted and unnecessary. “At the very least a decision on this application should be deferred pending the Local Plan’s approval or otherwise.”

Mr Bailes also pointed to a lack of jobs and public transport in the area and said an increase in traffic was a serious concern for residents.

When asked by Coun Margaret Atkinson (Con, Fountains and Ripley) if the school had room to expand he said there was not. There were however plans to replace the portable cabins which have been in use for 50 years.

Harrogate Borough Council’s Draft Local Plan was approved in December last year and is currently awaiting examination by the Secretary of State.With the final version of the plan not yet in place, Coun Anne Myatt (Con, Ouseburn) said the application was being considered in ‘the wrong place and the wrong time.’She said: “It seems completely at odds with a steady planning process to now allow a development which is not in the draft local plan. It would fly in the face of local planning process, and I think the public would lose all trust in the planning system.”

HBC planners recommended approval for the site based on its need to provide a supply of land for housing in the district over the next five years. Currently it stands at 4.5. There is also a shortfall in both open market and affordable housing, according to planning documents.

This was flagged by the agent for the developer, Roger Rippon who pointed to council documents including its July, 2017 Housing and Economic Development Needs Assessment (HEDNA).

He said: “Housing completions in your borough over the last four years have been 63 per cent or there abouts of your annual target. So you have been ‘failing to deliver the required amount of housing in your borough over the last four years at a tune of about 60 per cent of the target.’

“The second point is that affordable housing completions over the same period have been about 30 per cent of your target, so you have providing much less affordable housing than your own documentation and own HEDNA report says you need in this borough. The third thing is that the land supply is very small at 4.5 years and you have 2,000 people on your housing waiting list, I would therefore say this an application is on a piece of land available for development and I commend it to your committee as an application which should be approved.”

Coun Pat Marsh (Lib Dem, Harrogate Hookstone) in a response said approval for 4,000 dwellings across the district had been given approval, and asked if it was not up to the developers to develop those sites once this was done. She also asked planning officers if the site could be deferred until the Local Plan proceeded further.

Planning officers in response said this could result in the developer appealing to the Planning Inspectorate.

HBC Legal Officer, Noel Skanton also said: “If that was your consideration I can tell you the applicant will submit an appeal and it would be very highly likely it will be subject to a successful payment of costs.”

Planning documents state that for the application to be refused, despite the recommendation based on the land supply, it would need to be demonstrated the plans would ‘ cause harm significantly and demonstrably outweighs the benefits to be gained by delivering new housing.’

At the vote both coun Nigel Simms (Masham and Kirby Malzeard) and coun Marsh, who seconded the motion to approve the plans, said they could not find grounds to refuse.

Coun Simms said: “Its actually with reluctance that I move for officer recommendation, it is with reluctance because I believe the village is being overwhelmed by housing, and will continue to be. But I cannot think of a reason for refusal, so it is with reluctance."

Coun Marsh also said: “Until we get a Local Plan in place this is what is going to happen all the time. Green field sites are going to pop up all over the place, we haven’t got that plan behind us where we can say no to anything. We would have to show significant and demonstrable harm, I cannot see it on this site. I cannot refuse it.”

Eight members voted for in favour of the plans, three against, and there was one abstention.

Following the vote resident Liz Ebbutt voiced her frustration over the lack of a complete housing land supply and Local Plan, alongside the committee’s decision to not consider deferring the plans.

She said: “Objecting has no effect, every household in that village objected, and they have taken no notice of what local people said. Its about the voice of the people, we are a democracy and the voice of the people, more than 200 people from that area spoke and they don’t want that development on top of the 106 houses that are already being built.”

“Its opening the flood gates now for any developer to take plots of land, and it will go through. There will be no joined up thinking or overall plan and its not just Green Hammerton, its about Hampsthwaite, Tockwith, Ribston, Ripon, Boroughbridge, its about all of these areas.

“For people who live in the borough it is worrying, the sooner the council is put in to special measures really the better, because I am hoping government overview might be slightly better.”

Chris Chelton, of the action group Keep Green Hammerton Green,was among the speakers who objected to the plans, raising concerns including the impact housing could have to the landscape and character of the area.

During the meeting he said: “One example of these are the splendid views of York Minster, seen from New Lane, will be lost. Even Historic England say the views towards York and the city skyline are some of Green Hammerton’s most precious but fragile qualities.”

Speaking after the vote he spoke of his disappointment, saying he believed that the day had seen a number of objections put to the council which could have justified the plans being dismissed.

He said: “This has gone through because of the failure to have a five year supply, and they are not prepared to risk objecting and having to fight an appeal. The consequences of that position are going to be felt by us and others elsewhere.

“We knew that it would be a significant issue in determining this application. Hence why at the end I said you can reject it despite the presumption in favour of sustainable development, if you are satisfied that significant harm could be caused by the development to override it.

“They didn’t see it, and that is bitterly disappointing, as we believed there was good solid planning grounds for them to see it despite the lack of a five year supply reject it. They are close to having a supply, I believe its at 4.5, so I would say they are in a position to reject it.”

Although further conditions will later be decided at reserved matters houses on the site will be restricted to a maximum of two-storeys in height. The plans also show a proposed realignment of York Road, in order to form a new junction onto the A59 and site access, with a right turn lane.