Harrogate councillor questions colleague over district's land supply

Harrogate's five-year land supply figures were called into question at March's full meeting of council.
Harrogate's five-year land supply figures were called into question at March's full meeting of council.

Harrogate Borough Council's five-year housing land supply has been called into question by one of its councillors.

Coun Nick Brown (Con, Bishop Monkton and Newby) asked cabinet member for planning, Coun Rebecca Burnett, for details about the council's housing land supply, which he said had been used to justify the approval of various housing developments in the district in recent years.

"As planning officers have often referred to a marginal land supply figure as reason for approval...what is your definition of marginal? And at what point is a figure over five years not considered marginal?" Coun Brown said.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requires local authorities to identify and update annually the supply of land available for residential development over the next five years.

Coun Burnett (Cons, Harrogate St Georges) replied that the latest land supply figures were formulated in September 2018, which was deemed "sufficiently recent" by the government inspector ahead of hearings into Harrogate's draft local plan earlier this year.

She said the plan was now to update the five-year land supply calculation next month.

She added that since September 2018, that figure has been adjusted from 5.18 years to 5.56 years, following a "downward adjustment" of housing needs brought out by the draft local plan hearings.

"(We are) no longer referring to our five-year land supply as marginal, this is consistent with case evidence from appeal decisions, that is the basis upon which I made the change," she said.

"Planning committee members are aware of what this means."

Coun Brown said he found it "very strange" that the figure "which has been used consistently over a number of years as an argument for building and approval" can't be produced "very quickly indeed".

"Is it not time to take a stand against unallocated sites in the proposed local plan being looked at and basically approved because of the five-year land supply figure?" he said.

Coun Burnett responded that the land supply wasn't based on a simple "formula".

"I'm not going to guess on the figure like you have without calculating it properly," she said.

"It isn't a formula that we put through a calculator, (the figure) not only takes into account housing need and housing commissions, it also takes into account the lapsing of commissions, how quickly developers are building, (and) how quickly they are going to build permissions that have been given, which is a moving feast," she said.

She said that the figure wasn't "something I can bring forward to you quickly", but reiterated an updated figure would be put out in April.

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter