Harrogate's Draft Local Plan voted through but challenges continue
While the blueprint for Harrogate's future housing and employment needs was green-lit last night campaigners and councillors pledged to continue the fight.
After securing a majority of 37 votes at a meeting of Harrogate Borough Council in the Royal Hall the district's draft Local Plan will now progress to a further stage of examination. Proposals including sites for more than 16,000 new homes through to 2035 will face a further round of public consultation in January next year.
Cabinet Member for Planning, Coun Rebecca Burnett, addressed the council and an audience of around 100 residents saying that although objections over proposals, including up to 16,000 new homes through to 2035, will continue to be examined the legacy of the district had to be considered.
She said: "Too often when we talk of planning, with the Local Plan in particular, we focus on data and numbers while at heart it's evidence is fundamentally about people. It is not about now but where we want the district to be in 20 years time. It is a vision where people can afford to live and work locally if they choose.
She added: "The lack of housing they can afford means young people, your children and your grandchildren, are at an immediate disadvantage. Without this plan they will continue to be forced to move away from communities they grew up in. If they have been away to study they will not be able to return, left with no choice but to share or live with parents because a home of their own is to expensive.
"This is already happening and without a plan it might never change, i do not wish the legacy of this administration to be the condemnation of young people."
Campaigners from across the district gathered outside prior to the meeting for a candle-lit vigil. With placards in hand members from Keep Green Hammerton Green, Hands Off Hampsthwaite and The West Harrogate Forum were present.
Questions were put forward by representatives of these groups over the plan, including the proposal for a new settlement in the Green Hammerton and Cattal area. Christopher Chelton, Chairman of the Keep Green Hammerton Green raised questions over the potential for infrastructure to be introduced for up to 3,000 houses.
Mr Chelton said: "I ask the council to explain in detail why it believes these these to be sound reasons to promote any new town in the vicinity of Green Hammerton.
"Looking at Rail Travel you can see your aspiration to see two trains per hour on this line cannot be achieved by the signalling and other minor changes possible within the limited budget being offered to Network Rail."
While a majority voted for the plans much of the evening saw comments by councillors who remained concerned over sites in the plan.
Although some plan to challenge sites and proposals in plan further it was made clear that news of potential government intervention remained fresh in their minds.
Coun Jim Cark, Chair of Harrogate Borough Council's District Development Committee said: "This is a strange situation, if we did not push to move on to consultation then I am afraid this would be taken out of our hands, and the future of our planning decisions would be decided by a bureaucrat outside of Harrogate."
No outright support was secured for amendments put forward across the evening, but a motion to challenge provision for gypsy and traveller sites in the plan did have some success.
Two existing temporary and one unauthorised site on green belt land in Knaresborough have been put forward in the plan to meet the requirement for pitches in the district. However Coun Pat Marsh and David Goode's amendment questioned if the special circumstances needed to remove land from the green belt was evidenced, questioning if travellers on these sites still fell under that category if they are settled permanently.
Coun Marsh said: "Sites like Cass Lane have already been lived on permanently for 10 years. I am determined to ensure fairness in the planning system for all people. I am asking for your support for this amendment so that we don't make something that was illegal legal."
Leader of the Council, Coun Richard Cooper, said that while many in the council were sympathetic the removal of these would leave the plan unsound. This is because no allocation would be in place for traveller's pitches. Instead they would attach a copy of the amendment alongside the Draft Local Plan to be considered by the Secretary of State.
Although the plan was backed by a majority the opposition of six votes came from independent members of the council. Among them were John Fox, Val Rogers and Bob O'Neill
Coun Rogers said: "I am not against providing housing for people, but they are not being put in the right place. The infrastructure is not there, I do not think that a lot of the sites in my ward and across the district meeting this criteria."