It’s one of the most critical aspects of Harrogate Borough Council’s plan to build 14,049 new homes in the district by 2035 - the location and development of an entirely new settlement.
Tuesday saw hordes of residents and heavyweight developers and legal representatives cram in into a hearing on the matter, with some members of the public forced to sit in the hallway given the size of the turnout.
In a wide-ranging scrutiny session, Government inspector Richard Schofield poked and prodded around various aspects of the Green Hammerton area that council has chosen as its preferred location for the new settlement.
Among Mr Schofield’s questions was how much the nearby villages of Green Hammerton and Kirk Hammerton would be relied upon for services and retail needs during the construction period of the new settlement nearby.
Principal planner at the council, Linda Marfitt, said the villages could be relied upon in a limited role for the first phase of development.
“There is some capacity to allow that although it is limited,” she said.
Mr Schofield then queried whether the new development could see thousands of homes built without supporting services around them, at which point the council’s principal planning policy manager Tracey Rathmell stepped in.
“Are we going to end up with upwards of 1,000 houses being built without anything round them?” Mr Schofield said. “We expect the new settlement to bring forward its own services and facilities as that development progresses,” Ms Rathmell answered.
Historic England’s representative, Ian Smith, also weighed in on the proposed broad area of growth, stating that while the group supported the move for a new settlement, they had some concerns over the process of how it was selected.
Mr Smith said the heritage protection body supported a new village, but only because it was an alternative to releasing multiple smaller sites for development on the outskirts of Harrogate.
He added that the group had concerns over whether the “process in identifying this new location has been thorough enough”, as well as saying he had doubts the work was “understandable and consistent”.
Mr Schofield also explored whether there was an appetite for more than one major development, given that there are three applications for major developments proposed on or near the site.
Ms Marfitt answered that council felt that there wouldn’t be a market for two new settlements within close proximity, while there was little appeal from a “place-making” point of view.
This week also saw the finer details of policies surrounding employment, retail, housing development and transport discussed at the scrutiny hearings.
There’ll now be a week-long break, with hearings set to resume Februrary 12, when climate change, heritage and the impact of the developments on the natural environment will be analysed.
Once hearings are finished, the Government inspector will decide on whether to approve the draft plan with alterations, or reject it.
The timeline for adoption of the overall Local Plan is spring 2019.
Once in place it’s expected to help district planners control or restrict development outside of the sites laid out in the plan.
Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporting Service