Calls by action groups for more time over the summer holidays to challenge additional housing sites across the district have been turned down by Harrogate Borough Council.
Speaking to the Advertiser this week about the Local Plan, Cabinet Member for Planning, Coun Rebecca Burnett, said that an extension to the six week consultation deadline of Friday, August 25 by a week could cause months of delay further down the line.
While addressing questions put to her by residents, and listing objectives HBC believe the Local Plan could help address, she emphasised that residents should not take this as their views not being heard.
Coun Burnett said: “This extension cannot be done now, but I think there is something we have to communicate very clearly, this is not the last time they can talk with us on the Local Plan.
“We have moved on with the additional sites consultation quite quickly and this is because evidence has come up very recently (showing a higher housing need), and I appreciate that for some communities they haven’t had a lot of notice that these sites might be coming forward. But they are aware of them now, are very engaged and we are receiving comments, the deadline will stay as it is.”
“Nobody is going to miss out on having their view heard on this.”
Pointing to the upcoming Public Consultation on the entire Local Plan in January, Coun Burnett said that residents who are unable to produce a case in time this month could aim for the January consultation instead. This would put evidence directly to the Planning Inspectorate, who will make a final decision on the overall state of the plan.
She added: “The reason we have to have a deadline is because there is an important democratic process the plan needs to go through which is made up of four meetings of councillors.
“This process can take seven or eight weeks, and we have to publish papers for those meetings for people to see and get involved.
“On the current timetable we can hold the final meeting of council in early December, if we pushed it back any more even a week’s delay would mean about a four month delay next year because it would knock the publication consultation back from January.”
Coun Burnett also said submissions made by the deadline would be guaranteed assessment in the period between the end of current consultation and the Formal Publication Consultation in January.
Submissions made after this, within a few days and up to a week, could potentially still be used although this could not be guaranteed.
The current need for housing through to 2035 has been put at 16,500 and residents are being asked to continue raising their views to help the selection of sites that will soon be put forward.
Coun Burnett said: “We believe that if we didn’t do this (the Local Plan) we would be completely failing our district, if we didn’t plan for growth or the number of houses that we need.
“Its’ a very positive thing we are doing and we are proud to be doing it.
“However we recognise that the sites are contentious and that’s absolutely fine.
“I fully expect every community to stand up for their area and make sure their views are loud and clearly heard.
“But in the end we will have a suite of sites providing the houses that we need by the end of the process.”
A follow up to this story in the coming weeks will include responses to questions put to Coun Burnett and further details of the Local Plan.