Plan to convert farms into housing estates moves forward

A council looks set to press other local authorities to pass proposals to allow some of its farms to be converted into housing estates as part of a scheme to generate almost £5m.

Monday, 20th May 2019, 4:41 pm
It is understood planning applications for Harrogate farmland could be looked upon favourably as it'll help the authority reach affordable housing goals.

North Yorkshire County Council looks set to enter into a contract with government body Homes England to prepare three rural sites it owns outside areas where district councils have previously stated housing can be developed.

However, it is understood planning applications to Harrogate and Selby district councils could be viewed favourably as they would help the lower tier authorities achieve their affordable housebuilding targets.

In addition, the government-backed Accelerated Funding Programme scheme would unlock sites that would otherwise not be viable for development and for which there would be no expectation to be in the Local Plan under other circumstances.

To qualify for a £2.4m Homes England grant towards developing the tenanted farm sites at Minskip, near Boroughbridge, Cliffe and Ryther in Selby district, they must have planning permission, feature at least 40 per cent affordable housing, and be ready for building work to start by March 2021.

As part of a Government drive to increase housebuilding, Homes England is seeking to support local authorities to develop their land so that it can be disposed of for housing, leading to homes being built faster than normal.

An officer’s report to the county council’s Business and Environmental Services Executive Members Committee states the proposal at Cliffe would be for 113 homes and a potential £770,520 profit and the plan at Minskip 93 homes and a profit of £3,978,440. The proposal at Ryther would be for 106 homes, but would be likely to cost the council £34,754.

The report highlights that while the council faces a number of risks, such as financial and political, the potential benefits, including a £4.7m profit, outweighed this.

The report states: “Part of the virtue of the programme is in bringing

sites forward for housing that would not otherwise be developed. We understand that selection criteria for the sites included their planning status – not being allocations in the local plans.

“This could lead to potential conflict where for example, North Yorkshire would be supporting Harrogate Borough Council to bring forward development within the parameters of their Local Plan, and at the same time promoting a site outside of the plan.

“It will be important to stress the wider economic benefits of the programme and the exceptional circumstances in bringing the sites forward.”

Earlier this year it was revealed the council had made more than £12m by selling 68 public buildings and spaces between January 2014 and July 2018.

The biggest sale concerned New House Farm near Ampleforth and brought £1.5m into the council in 2015, while Park Hills Farm at Danby Wiske, near Northallerton, sold for £1m.

Some of the properties were sold to cut ongoing costs to the taxpayer, with six of them, including Spital Bridge, in Whitby, selling for a pound each and the Starbeck Highways Area Office in Harrogate, was sold for just £10.

Stuart Minting, Local Democracy Reporting Service