Harlow and Pannal Ash residents to tackle council's 'democratic deficit'

Harrogate Borough Council.
Harrogate Borough Council.

A residents' association is taking action against what they have described as a "democratic deficit" impacting those who call the town of Harrogate home.

A residents' association is taking action against what they have described as a "democratic deficit" impacting those who call the town of Harrogate home.

Members of Harlow and Pannal Ash Residents' Association (HAPARA) have moved to change the rules that come with addressing the borough council's planning committee.

During planning committee meetings, community members can speak in objection or support of developments proposed for the district.

As it stands, the opportunity to speak scheme means ward members, Parish or Town councillors, and the applicant can speak to the planning committee for three minutes each.

The remaining residents then have to split a three-minute slot between themselves.

This includes residents' associations, who have to share the three-minutes with other members of the public who wish to object.

"So we have suggested that properly constituted associations should be given the opportunity afforded to parish/town councils to redress the balance," HAPARA member David Siddans said.

With the town of Harrogate itself not having a Parish or Town council, Mr Siddans said residents living there were suffering from a "democratic deficit", particularly given that the areas of Harlow and Pannal Ash are popular with developers.

"It's an oddity of the system, if there is anything going on in our wards we don't have quite the same speaking rights," he said.

The group has taken the issue to multiple councillors representing their wards, with ward member for Harrogate Harlow, Coun Jim Clark, throwing his support behind it.

"I'm supporting him and will give the group any support I can," Coun Clark, who also chairs the county council, said.

"I think it should apply to properly constituted groups (such as HAPARA), it's important that proper groups should be able to get the same access as other groups."

"I'll be taking it ahead."

Coun Clark said he "absolutely agreed" that the current system contributed to a democratic deficit for the people of Harrogate town.

"It's a big issue, but particularly in my ward, where there's so much housing proposed," he said.

"It's something that's long overdue."

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter