Harrogate MP and residents criticise council's 'mistake' to approve Dunlopillo housing plans without a vote
Harrogate's MP and residents have criticised the borough council for its "mistake" in approving plans for a controversial apartment block without a vote from councillors.
The plans to demolish the derelict Dunlopillo office building in Pannal to make way for a six-storey apartment block were last week approved at officer level and under rules called permitted development rights despite calls for an emergency meeting.
The decision not to call members of Harrogate Borough Council's planning committee together for a vote has been criticised as "very wrong".
However, the council has hit back saying it must follow rules under permitted development rights and that the calls for an emergency meeting were made too late.
A council spokesperson said: "Proposals received under permitted development are different to applications made to us under the Planning Act.
"We receive notification from the developer and then have 56 days to check the submission and assess it. If we do not determine the application within 56 days, the proposal is deemed to have been given consent.
“In this instance, the request to consider the application was made too close to the target date to enable an emergency planning committee meeting to be arranged."
Permitted development rights were introduced by the government to fast-track the conversion of empty buildings into homes, however, there have been criticisms over how much of a say residents and councillors have in the process.
Harrogate MP Andrew Jones previously said the Dunlopillo plans should not have been lodged under these rules and has now criticised the council for its "mistake" in approving the development in this way.
He said: “Over the past eleven years as our area’s MP I have been extremely supportive of our local councils. I do think though in this instance the council has made a mistake in not putting this application before planning committee.
"The outcome may well have been the same; it may not. That is not a matter for me but for elected members.
“It would though have given council officers the opportunity to demonstrate to councillors and the public the reasoning behind the decision they made.
"Whatever the outcome, surely this would have been a better way to deal with this particular application?”
The plans from Otley-based Quattro Property Group include 48 flats for the Station Road site which has sat empty since Dunlopillo - which made pillows and mattresses - moved out in 2008.
The apartments will be split into two blocks - one with four storeys and another with six - and residents are fearful that the development will have a major visual impact on the area which has no other buildings of this type.
Resident Anne Smith said: "We are going to be stuck with this skyscraper-type building. I honestly don't know what Harrogate Borough Council are doing because there has been a lot of opposition to this.
"It would have been far fairer for the plans to have gone before councillors.
"We are extremely disappointed that this didn't happen - this is all very wrong."
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter