New village plan at abandoned golf course near Harrogate refused ahead of High Court battle

Major plans to transform a disused golf course between Harrogate and York into a new village have been thrown out by councillors just two weeks before a legal battle involving the scheme.

Tuesday, 13th October 2020, 5:55 pm
Updated Tuesday, 13th October 2020, 5:56 pm

Harrogate Borough Council's planning committee has rejected the Flaxby Golf Course proposals for 2,750 homes, two primary schools and commercial space including a hotel.

The decision comes almost three years after the plans were first submitted and just two weeks before a High Court legal battle between the developers and council.

Flaxby Park Ltd will challenge the council over its decision to leave the proposals out of its newly-adopted Local Plan in favour of a 3,000-home scheme near Green Hammerton.

Harrogate councillors have rejected plans for 2,750 homes at the former Flaxby Golf Course.

At today's meeting, councillors raised concerns over what the upcoming judicial review could mean for their decision.

However, council officers said the issues are "two very separate processes" and that the review is not likely to lead to any changes to the Local Plan.

Flaxby Park has disputed this, saying the legal challenge could be a "game changer".

Councillor Robert Windass questioned why the application had been brought before the committee just weeks before the judicial review and said he would support a deferral.

John Worthington, the council's executive officer for development management, said there would be "no reason" to delay a decision as it "wouldn't achieve anything".

"The Local Plan in our view is in full force," he said. "The decision needs to be taken in line with the Local Plan and this site is contrary to it."

The Local Plan was agreed by councillors earlier this year, although many admitted they were unhappy with site allocations in their wards.

It was voted on in March after six years of planning and the most contentious issue was where to site a huge housing settlement - Flaxby Park or Green Hammerton.

The council is now pushing ahead with its preferred option of Green Hammerton despite concerns that it would mean a tenfold increase in the local population and see agricultural land destroyed.

Councillor Pat Marsh, leader of Harrogate's Liberal Democrats, said councillors looked "long and hard" at both proposals and that she could not support Flaxby Park.

She raised concerns over the viability of plans to bring the former Goldsborough Railway Station back into use at the site.

"We did look long and hard during the development of the Local Plan," she said.

"We didn't all feel happy about it but one thing we did all agree on was that a new settlement might be the answer rather than adding onto our towns."

Local councillors in Knaresborough also raised concerns over the impact of Flaxby Park on the market town and its surrounding villages.

Matt Johnson, development director for Flaxby Park, told councillors that the village plans include health and education facilities, as well as a park and ride.

He also argued that work on the site could start much quicker than Green Hammerton which is at a consultation stage.

"Flaxby Park has all the required infrastructure in place now to support the immediate delivery of homes," Mr Johnson said.

"Meetings have taken place between Flaxby Park, planning officers and between several regional and national house builders who are ready to put spades in the ground."

The judicial review will take place on October 27, 28, and 29 in London.

Flaxby Park has claimed the council’s decision to leave its proposals out of the Local Plan was based on “flawed information of a scant, conflicting and contradictory nature”.

A judge will decide whether the decision was lawful.

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter