Harrogate council should have acted quicker on Dunlopillo housing plans, review finds

A review has found Harrogate Borough Council should have acted quicker on controversial housing plans for the derelict Dunlopillo building in Pannal.
This was the Dunlopillo office building on Station Road. It has since fallen into a derelict state.This was the Dunlopillo office building on Station Road. It has since fallen into a derelict state.
This was the Dunlopillo office building on Station Road. It has since fallen into a derelict state.

Residents, councillors and Harrogate MP Andrew Jones all criticised the council when it approved plans for 48 apartments at the site last September.

The decision was made at officer level and without a vote from councillors, which led to the council launching an internal review into how it handled the plans submitted under rules called permitted development rights.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A report has now concluded a "longer period of time than ideal" was spent on parts of the process.

It also said residents should have been consulted with sooner and that this could have allowed time for a vote from councillors.

Despite this, the council said the plans were still "appropriately considered".

A council spokesperson said: “The lessons learnt review regarding the former Dunlopillo site in Pannal found that the case was appropriately considered by officers and determined in-line with the appropriate legislation.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"It was acknowledged that some internal process areas could be strengthened, including prioritisation of such applications in the future and a greater overview by senior officers."

The report explained that extra time was spent on the application because it was the first the council had received under permitted development rights which fast-track the conversion of empty buildings into homes.

Since the plans were passed new proposals have since been submitted for the Station Road site with a reduced number of apartments to replace the derelict office building which has been described as a "monstrosity".

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Echo Green Developments now wants to build 38 apartments at the site which pillows and bedding manufacturer Dunlopillo moved out of in 2008.

The proposed building is still two-storeys higher than the existing offices - something which has been a key concern for residents who are fearful the development will have a major visual impact on the area.

MP Andrew Jones had urged residents to make their voices heard on the latest plans and has now welcomed the conclusion of the review.

He said: "I was pleased to see that the council had done an internal review on the matter and concluded that, although all the correct factors were taken into account in reaching a decision, there were improvements in the process that could be made.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I know planners have a difficult job with ever-changing laws and guidance. I know too that they rarely have to take decisions on issues which are uncontroversial.

“That is why I am really encouraged that they have taken the time to look back, evaluate and implement changes in regard of this brand-new class of permitted development."

Mr Jones added: “After the initial submission which prompted my concerns over the decision-making process, the applicants submitted a new proposal for the Dunlopillo site.

"This superseded the earlier decision and time was available to get the application before a planning committee.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I think this shows that not only did planners critically evaluate what had been done previously, but they implemented the positive changes identified in the report.

"I am grateful that they took this approach irrespective of the outcome of the process.”

A decision on the latest plans is expected this month.

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter