Harrogate council releases figures showing 'planning appeals success' as it renews its commitment to hitting housing targets in Local Plan
Harrogate Borough Council has issued new figures which it says shows "significant success" at appeal stage over planning applications for new housing developments.
Coun Tim Myatt, Harrogate Borough Council's Cabinet Member for Planning, said, while the council remained committed to the housing targets set in its Local Plan - with the aim that important sites in the local in the Local Plan continue to come forward and are granted approval - he added that the council would still be defending planning committee decisions at appeals to the Government's planning inspectorate but only where there were "sound planning reasons" to do so.
His remarks follow what he said had been "misconceptions" that the council was reluctant to challenge developers for fear of the legal costs, something that was, he said "untrue".
Coun Myatt said: "I want to reassure members that where decisions on planning applications are made on the basis of sound planning reasons, the council will defend appeals to the planning inspectorate.
"I am aware that there is a misconception that the council is unwilling to defend appeals on the basis of cost alone.
"That is untrue. Decisions on whether to defend an appeal are made on the likelihood of success, and where there is an arguable case a defence will be made.
"In some cases it may be that councillors on the planning committee disagree with officer recommendation but that, due to sound planning reasons put forward by the committee, a defence to an appeal can be mounted."
The council's hardening stance on appeals follows not only growing political controversy on the issue - with residents in several sites arguing that too much housing is being built in the same areas - but what it says is the necessity to ensure the objectives for new housing in the Local Plan are stuck to.
Harrogate Borough Council have released official figures showing its recent record in winning appeals against development with the planning inspector dismissing the vast majority of appeals by applicants.
Over the past two years, approximately 80% of applications that are referred to the planning inspectorate have resulted in defeat at the appeal stage for developers.
In 2019-20 there were 79 appeals over planning applications with only 16 of them resulting in victory for developers.
In 2020-21 there were 64 appeals over planning applications with only 10 of them resulting in victory for developers.
But Harrogate Borough Council insists where councillors on the planning committee vote against developments on grounds beyond planning laws they will not support any appeals.
Coun Myatt said: "Unfortunately some decisions have been made against strong officer recommendation and verbal advice, and there has been no realistic defence to present at appeal. In situations where no sound planning grounds are evident, councillors may be asked if they wish to defend their own decision at appeal.
"After all, decisions should only be made on planning grounds and councillors will be aware of why they have made their decision against strong officer advice."
The council's latest Housing Land Supply Update shows the council can demonstrate 7.4 years of deliverable housing sites (the five year period to March 30, 2026).
It's a situation it describes as "healthy at present" which, it adds, puts the council in a strong position to ensure development occurs where it is planned and is of high quality, according to the policies of the Local Plan.
Despite concern at the sheer scale of new housing developments in the west of Harrogate between Otley Road, Pannal Ash and Pannal, the council sees no retreat from the Local Plan, though the question of transport links and infrastructure to cope with this expansion is part of the way forward.
Coun Myatt said: "The wider planning team will also continue to work hard on bringing forward our strategic sites through the West of Harrogate Parameters Plan and New Settlement DPD, which are also important for our longer term supply.
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