Campaigners challenge vision for Harrogate housing

Harrogate Borough Council revealed the draft of its Local Plan last week
Harrogate Borough Council revealed the draft of its Local Plan last week

Campaigners have warned that a lack of infrastructure will leave one of the North of England’s most affluent districts unable to cope with a wave of development which has been outlined in a 20-year vision.

Harrogate Borough Council revealed the draft of its controversial Local Plan last week, a blueprint allocating land for more than 16,000 homes, travellers’ sites, green spaces and business enterprises.

The plan is due to go before the authority’s Cabinet and the District Development Committee this week for approval. However, the proposals have been branded “illogical” by residents opposing housing in western Harrogate who will be bringing questions before the committee alongside other groups.

The chairman of the Harlow and Pannal Ash Residents’ Association, Rene Dziabas, said: “At first glance it seems that nothing has changed. I am sure I speak for many in the group that we believe it will cause problems. Harrogate is a prosperous place but without the necessary infrastructure many places are still not suitable.

“A number of residents’ associations and parish councils are working together to raise their concerns over issues like this and pushing to improve the situation.”

He added: “There are a large number of houses that are being proposed for the west of Harrogate, an area where it is weakest in terms of infrastructure. It just seems illogical.”

The draft document comes at the end of an extra housing consultation in August. Campaign groups flagged up concerns over housing being proposed in areas including Pannal, Hampsthwaite and Green Hammerton.

The council claims concerns raised with it have been taken into account, influencing changes including fewer homes at certain sites, and the plan is aimed at addressing an affordable housing crisis.

Figures from the National Housing Federation show the average cost of a home in the Harrogate district is £305,442, compared to £174,171 for the Yorkshire region.

The cabinet member for planning, Coun Rebecca Burnett, said: “The Local Plan – alongside our economic growth strategy – has the potential to deal with several major issues facing our district.

“Unless we create new housing and employment opportunities, we risk losing generations of young people to other towns and cities because Harrogate remains unaffordable.

“We also need to support the growth of local businesses who currently struggle to attract and retain the talented staff they need.

“Young people and businesses need to have confidence that their local council is planning for their futures and that’s what this document is all about. We’ve listened very carefully to all the views that have been expressed during four consultations and those have been taken into account.”

Campaigners maintain controversial housing sites remain part of the plan and feel little has changed. Among them is Meadow Close in Hampsthwaite, which was reduced from 101 houses to fewer than 80. More than 500 objections were lodged over the site. Critics believe few opportunities remain to question the state of the plan. A formal publication date has been set for January next year.

Grant Blakemore, a member of the Hands Off Hampsthwaite action group, said: “This is 15 minutes to speak on something that is complicated, along with the fact that so many questions will be asked by people from across the district.”

The council has said it will deal with all questions sent in advance before the meeting.