Harrogate Local Plan: Action group "gravely concerned" over new village research
Leaders of a community action group say they are "gravely concerned about the fairness and independence" of research being undertaken regarding the location of a new village in the district.
Keep the Hammertons Green (KTHG) has reiterated calls for an independent party to undertake the additional research into the site of a new village supported in Harrogate Borough Council's draft local plan.
Chair of the group, Chris Eaton, said it was "outrageous" that the council would undertake the work, after the government inspector called for more information into potential sites for the new village.
“HBC has overstated the amount of new houses needed in our district and there are many ways in which the housing requirement can be met. But if a new settlement is needed, we have always said that Flaxby is the obvious location and Green Hammerton is demonstrably not sustainable," he said.
“We call on HBC to do the decent thing by recognising there must be a lack of objectivity and fairness if its own team re-assesses its own work. It must appoint a third party to re-consider the sites.”
The action group also claimed that North Yorkshire County Council could gain "tens of millions of pounds" if certain land at Green Hammerton was developed.
Gary Fielding, North Yorkshire County Council’s corporate director of strategic resources, confirmed the authority previously owned land in the area.
“When we sell farms that have become vacant we ensure that the county council benefits from any increase in land value as a result of housing development," he said.
"This is done in order to protect the financial interests of the county council and its taxpayers.
“We can confirm that we have sold land that was previously used as farming land in the Green Hammerton area and that the arrangements above apply should this particular area be used for housing."
Mr Fielding said that any decisions on whether the land would be developed rested with Harrogate Borough Council as the planning authority, as well as the housing developer and landowner, and not the county.
Councillor Rebecca Burnett, Harrogate's cabinet member for planning, added: “Financial beneficiaries from development are not a planning consideration and have not played any factor in the preparation of the Local Plan. What has been taken into account is clearly detailed in evidence presented to the independent inspector.
"The additional work on the sustainability appraisal is being undertaken with an open mind and, along with modifications to the plan, it will then be the subject of further public consultation and consideration by the independent inspector.”
KTHG's calls comes after developers Flaxby Park Ltd, who have lodged an application for 2,750 homes at a golf course near Flaxby, last month called for an independent body to undertake the additional research.
Coun Burnett responded to the calls last week, stating the council would not bring in independent help but would approach the work "with an open mind".
"We've confirmed in writing to Flaxby Park that we will approach this work with an open mind and will respond to the outcome should it indicate a different approach," Coun Burnett said.
Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter