Harrogate councillor slams inspector’s ‘outrageous’ decision to approve Starbucks drive-thru plans
A senior councillor who led a fight against plans for a Starbucks drive-thru in Harrogate has slammed the government for its "outrageous" decision to allow the development to go-ahead despite three previous refusals.
Councillor Pat Marsh who represents the Harrogate Hookstone ward, said she and residents are "extremely angry and very upset" after an appeal held last month resulted in a government-appointed inspector approving the plans for the former 1st Dental surgery on Wetherby Road.
"I would like the inspector to visit the site once it is up and running and hope she feels proud of her decision," councillor Marsh said.
"Most people in Harrogate will be astounded that she felt that an extra 700 car movements in that area close to Woodlands junction was acceptable.
"I think it is an outrageous decision that the inspector can walk away from but my residents and Wetherby Road users, who will be negatively impacted by it, have to live with it."
Retail firm Euro Garages is behind the plans which were previously refused twice by Harrogate Borough Council and once by another inspector who concluded the drive-thru would cause “unacceptable” harm to those living in the area.
But after the retail firm made changes to its proposals, including a re-jigged car park and an acoustic fence, inspector Helen Hockenhull said in a decision notice published last week that she could not find any reasons for another refusal.
She said there was no evidence that the drive-thru would cause "significant harm" to highway safety, air quality or the living conditions of residents.
This was despite warnings from those living in the area that the development would "completely destroy" their enjoyment of their homes and that traffic in Harrogate was already at "breaking point".
These warnings were from the same residents who, along with councillor Marsh, were forced to fight last month's appeal themselves after Harrogate Borough Council chose not to as no internal or external legal teams were willing to take on the challenge.
Councillor Marsh, who is also leader of the local Liberal Democrats, previously described the decision as a "betrayal" by council officers and said members of the council's planning committee were facing a "brick wall" from wealthy developers in the current climate.
She has now said: "Developers like this have all the cards, they can appeal a council planning decision yet residents cannot appeal the inspector's decision. Big business talks."
During last month's appeal, a legal representative for Euro Garages said the retail firm would be seeking legal costs against the council for "unreasonable behaviour".
A council spokesperson has this week said an agreement on costs has not yet been reached.
Euro Garages also said in a statement that it is “delighted" to have won approval for its plans. A spokesperson said: "Throughout the process, we have been patient, cooperative and have addressed concerns raised by both residents and the council.
"We are now focused on delivering a world-class drive-thru food service offering and we look forward to welcoming the people of Harrogate to our new store in the near future.”
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter