Lessons learned review launched into Harrogate council's handling of Dunlopillo housing plans
A review has been launched into where lessons can be learned from Harrogate Borough Council's handling of controversial housing plans for the derelict Dunlopillo building in Pannal.
The council's recent approval of the plans submitted under permitted development rights was met with anger from residents and MP Andrew Jones who called for the scheme to be decided by a vote from councillors and not at officer level.
Permitted development rights are rules which 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.
A review into this has now been launched by the council's cabinet member for planning, councillor Tim Myatt, with the lessons learned to be reported back at a later date.
A council spokesperson said: “We acknowledge the concerns raised by the parish council and MP Andrew Jones and have written to them both to explain that as the local planning authority we have followed the rules that are set for us by national government.
“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 against a defined list of criteria. If we do not determine the application within 56 days, the proposal is deemed to have been given consent."
Dunlopillo - which makes pillows and bedding - moved out of its Station Road site 13 years ago and the plans approved this October will see the building demolished and replaced with a taller, six-storey apartment block.
MP Andrew Jones previously said the proposals should not have been lodged under permitted development rights as he also criticised the council for its "mistake" in approving the plans without a vote from councillors.
Councillor Howard West, chairman of Pannal and Burn Bridge Parish Council, also said it was "clear" planning officers "made errors" and that the parish council has now written to the government asking for a change in the laws around appeals.
He said: "It is evident that all was not in order, otherwise councillor Tim Myatt would not have instigated a lessons learned review.
"The parish council has written to the Housing Minister Michael Gove and the Prime Minister suggesting that a change in the planning legislation be made so that bodies like parish councils may challenge decisions by borough, town or unitary authorities without their only recourse being prohibitively expensive judicial review.
"Developers with deep pockets can challenge councils with impunity but parishes don't have the financial backing to enter into that arena.
"This impasse is undemocratic and in our opinion should not be permitted in law."
The plans from Otley-based Quattro Property Group include 48 flats for the Dunlopillo site where the new apartments will be split into two blocks - one with four storeys and another with six.
Residents had complained that the development will have a major visual impact on the area which has no other buildings of this type, with the parish council also describing the new building as "hideous and obtrusive".
The parish council added: "The residents of Pannal will now have to put up with an even bigger monstrosity than exists at present."
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter