New Harrogate masterplan to cope with massive wave of housing in Pannal Ash and Pannal areas

New schools, new shops, new bus routes and cycle  paths - worried residents this week got their first look at the 162-page masterplan intended to turn a mass of individual  housing developments on the  western side of Harrogate into real communities.

Thursday, 13th January 2022, 5:00 pm
New homes - The West Harrogate Parameters Plan is meant to bring joined-up thinking to the biggest urban expansion the Harrogate district has seen for decades.

While not designed to block any of the individual plans for approximately 2,500 new homes still to come for the Otley Road, Pannal Ash and Pannal areas - 4,000 if all recent new builds are included - the West Harrogate Parameters Plan (WHPP) is meant to bring some element of joined-up thinking to the biggest urban expansion the Harrogate district has seen

for decades.

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Drawn up in conjunction with housing developers and North Yorkshire County Council in a pain-staking process which started back in May 2020, the long-waited Parameters plan may still only be in draft form for the moment but Harrogate Borough Council is confident it will ensure that the infrastructure needed by the community will be provided alongside the massive wave of new homes.

Included in the epic new document are:

Two potential new primary schools - one on Whinney Lane, the other on land to the rear of RHS Harlow Carr;

New centres for local retail;

Extra bus routes in relevant areas;

Three potential new football pitches and a cricket field;

Four new play areas;

A series of coordinated new cycle paths and walking routes.

Coun Tim Myatt, Harrogate Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning, hailed the hard-won document, which has taken more than a year-and-a-half to produce, as providing an “example of true place-making”.

Coun Myatt said: “The draft West Harrogate Parameters Plan (WHPP) provides a masterplan for development across west Harrogate, including ensuring the provision of on-site infrastructure required to support new communities.

“The plan views development in West Harrogate as a whole, rather than multiple sites brought forward by

different developers.

“Instead, the WHPP aims to provide infrastructure at the same time as new homes, creating real communities with homes close to the services residents need.

“That’s why the WHPP sets out locations for new school provision, commercial buildings, sports facilities and

public space.

“It also plans for green infrastructure and sustainable travel routes throughout the sites, enabling easy movement to local services.

“Once the plan is in place it will be an example of true place-making.”

Although there is no requirement for public consultation in the creation of the Parameters Plan, both the borough council and the county council have engaged with local parish councils, residents associations and Harrogate council’s District Development Committee from the early stages.

The last few days have seen Harrogate council share the masterplan in a programme of ‘targeted stakeholder engagements’ with different groups including Pannal & Burn Bridge Parish Council, Harlow and Pannal Ash Residents’ Association, Beckwithshaw Parish Council, Zero Carbon Harrogate, Duchy Residents’ Association and more who came together in late 2020 to form the Western Arc Coordination Group.

Recent months have seen members of that group raise concerns that the area’s needs in terms of traffic and schools, in particular, risked being overwhelmed by new housing.

A series of heated skirmishes over individual housing plans reached a high point last month when there were claims Harrogate councillors had been bullied into controversial plans for up to 200 homes at a former police training base off Yew Tree Lane in Pannal Ash.

But West Harrogate Parameters Plan may not turn out to be the answer to all the prayers of campaginers and parish councillors.

WHPP is only a guidance document and will not introduce new planning policies; therefore, will have no affect on the rights and wrongs of sites already agreed for potential housing developments in the district’s Government-approved Local Plan.

Perhaps the biggest elephant in the room for the future of the west of Harrogate is the question of roads, new or not.

Matters like road-widening schemes and junction changes will be addressed by the Infrastructure Delivery Plan for West Harrogate - another report in the pipeline from transport authority North Yorkshire County Council in liaison with Harrogate Borough Council.

The proposals contained in IDP and the WHPP are still open to alteration and suggestion by local groups - in theory.

Whether the finished versions reassure everyone or address every concern is a matter of debate but both documents are expected to be signed, sealed and delivered by early Spring this year.

Coun Tim Myatt says the point of the process has been to bring cohesion to housing expansion through coordination and collaboration in a way that builds good places to live.

He said: “We are hopeful that a final decision on the WHPP will be made by end of February but that will be dependent on the outcome of our engagement sessions.

“But the end result will mean the new infrastructure the community needs will be able to happen on-site as new housing is built rather than

afterwards.”