Public asked for views on 5,000 homes

A CONTROVERSIAL plan to build 5,000 new homes in urban areas of the Harrogate district over the next 13 years will go to public consultation next week.

Harrogate Council is asking residents to have their say on the Local Development Framework (LDF) proposals to build more than 5,000 new homes – 390 for each year throughout the area up to 2023-24 – to address a critical lack of affordable housing.

Last year, consultation over building homes in the rural parts of the district such as Pateley Bridge and Pannal produced a wave of opposition, leading to the process being delayed so the council could effectively consider residents’ comments.

Now an eight-week consultation on proposals for urban areas across Harrogate, Ripon and Knaresborough is set to take place from Friday next week, as critics complain that not enough is being done to address serious concerns over a lack of improvements to infrastructure to accompany the new homes.

The council has stressed that the strategy will strike a “good balance” between providing much-needed affordable homes and ensuring that parts of the district are not swamped by new housing developments.

Its cabinet member for planning, Coun Richard Cooper, said: “This is the reason we are having a consultation. We want as many views as possible so we can make a fully informed decision.”

Senior councillors have expressed their reservations about the proposals, saying they are threatening the area’s green space.

Coun Jim Clark, a former Harrogate Council cabinet member for planning who oversaw the rural consultation, said: “This is the biggest attack on the green space of Harrogate for decades.

“The whole thing has to be thought out very carefully. I don’t see how we can go ahead with building these homes without the right infrastructure. We haven’t had a proper assessment of the infrastructure.

“There are no roads that are going to be built to cope with that amount of traffic and there isn’t the ability to make these changes. We really need people to make their views known on this.”

Coun Bill Hoult, the Liberal Democrat representative for Knaresborough on the county council, said 800 new homes are planned in the town as part of the consultation leading to an estimated 1,600 extra cars on its already choked roads.

“Unless we address the congestion issues, they are building up problems for the future and degrading the quality of life for the people that live here,” he said.

“Air quality in Bond End is so bad that it is now an air quality management area and parts of the High Street are only just below acceptable limits. Nobody doubts that these problems are caused by bad road layouts and an excess of exhaust fumes from slow moving traffic.

“If we are going to think about building these houses then we have got to think about sorting out the infrastructure and there is no provision for doing that.”

The council is planning a huge consultation on the proposals between September 9 and November 4.

Over eight weeks, 51,000 newspapers will be delivered to homes across Harrogate, Ripon and Knaresborough, 16,000 flyers will be delivered to homes and businesses, 3,000 letters will be sent to landowners and parish councils and six public exhibitions of the plans will take place.