Public inquiry for plans

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A decision to reject a “ridiculous” plan for hundreds of homes on the outskirts of Wetherby is set to head for a public inquiry.

Members of Harrogate’s planning committee voted to refuse the application for 210 homes at Stockeld, with the decision met with a round of applause from a packed council chamber.

It means the authority will have to fight their case at a public inquiry, after applicants Hallam Land Management And Stockeld Park lodged an appeal against non-determination after their plan was stalled last year.

Leeds City Councillor Alan Lamb, who represents the ward of Wetherby, said after the meeting he was “delighted” that Harrogate’s councillors had rejected the proposal.

Coun Lamb, who attended the meeting alongside a busload of Wetherby residents objecting to the application, said attention would now turn to having the appeal thrown out at the public inquiry.

“It’s been a long battle, but when you believe something is right, you keep fighting,” he said.

“I’m delighted it’s going to the public inquiry with the planning committee on our side, and the next step is to make it as accessible as possible to residents.”

Coun Andy Paraskos, speaking against the proposal, called it “a ridiculous idea”.

He said medical resources in Wetherby were already stretched, while putting more traffic on surrounding roads could lead to an air quality management area having to be imposed.

Coun Pat Marsh said the council, which initially approved the application following legal advice when it first fronted the planning committee last year, now had the tools to reject developers.

“Last time when we approved it I said we did it with a heavy heart...We now have around us a local plan which we can now give much more weight to...now we can defend the applications. Before that we were rather naked with developers being able to come in,” Coun Pat Marsh said.

“I think we can refuse it with our hand on our heart and say we’ve done our bit,” Coun Nigel Simms echoed.

It’s the latest development in the long-running saga, which has courted controversy since its inception due to its location.

While it sits within Harrogate Borough Council’s boundaries, the development itself is adjacent to the town of Wetherby, which falls within Leeds City Council borders.

Last year the controversial application was initially rejected by Harrogate councillors, before legal advice received in a private session saw them perform an abrupt U-turn and approve the plans.

The move provoked outrage from Wetherby residents and led to Elmet and Rothwell MP Alec Shelbrooke lobbying the Secretary of State to reject the proposal.

The application was subsequently frozen while the office of the Secretary of State for Housing - which saw applicants Hallam Land Management and Stockeld Park lodge an appeal for indecision.

The Secretary of State decided in May to leave the proposal to Harrogate council to decide.