'This is not democracy': Harrogate residents' anger as rejected homes plan overturned at appeal
Residents living in one of Harrogate's fastest growing areas have reacted with anger after a decision to reject a 149-home development was overturned at appeal.
Housebuilders Richborough Estates were refused permission to build the homes at land near Kingsley Road by Harrogate Borough Council last year but a government planning inspector has now intervened and ruled in favour of the developers.
The decision has been met with anger from members of the Kingsley Ward Action Group who previously complained they had already faced months of construction "misery" from the hundreds of homes being built in the area and now say the appeal decision has made a "travesty" of the planning system.
"This is not democracy and it is just not right," said group member John Hansard.
"We had been fighting this for a year and after 10 out of 11 councillors voted against it we finally got to a stage where it had been rejected, only for it to now be given approval simply because one government inspector carried out one sight inspection and said so."
The development was refused by councillors in August last year over concerns that the homes would result in a further increase of traffic on the roads on top of the almost 700 homes already being built in the area.
This was decided at a third meeting on the plans and despite a council officer's recommendation for approval, as well as legal warnings that the refusal would need strong grounds to stand up at appeal.
Mr Hansard said the appeal decision announced this month was yet another blow for residents in the area who feel their concerns have been continually overlooked, with some becoming so "fed up" with the construction of new homes that they are considering moving out of the area.
"A lot of people have started putting their houses up for sale because they are just fed up with this now and if I'm being honest, me and my wife have also spoken seriously about it," he said.
"This site was included in the Local Plan so really the only way we could have stopped it was to have it completely removed, but that was never going to happen.
"It seems a bit pointless having a planning committee because if a developer wants to build on a site in the Local Plan then it is going to happen no matter what - and this appeal has shown that."
The government planning inspector said in a decision notice there was no "substantive evidence" that the homes would result in an "unacceptable impact" on the roads or that the development should be refused because of the number of homes already being built in the area.
They also dismissed complaints over how the new homes could impact on property prices and that the nearest bus stops would be too far away for future residents.
"Representations suggesting that the development is for profit and may devalue properties are not land use planning matters, or matters of significant
weight which would alter my findings on the main issue", the inspector said.
The appeal decision means Harrogate Borough Council will have to pay 100% of the developer's legal fees. The council said it is "too early to confirm" how much this will be.
Before construction can start, Richborough Estates must submit a second application with the final details of its plans. This is expected later this year and will require another vote by councillors.
A council spokesperson said: "We note the planning inspectorate’s decision and await the reserved matters submission from the applicant. This will be dealt with accordingly."
Hannah Woodall, a graduate planner at design consultancy firm Barton Willmore who worked with Richborough Estates on the appeal, said:“Richborough Estates’ plans carefully considered connectivity and sustainability via footpaths and cycle access from Kingsley Road.
“There are walking routes to nearby bus stops, and the planning inspector noted “convenient” routes to local facilities and services on Knaresborough Road.
“The scheme also delivers a new footpath and cycleway through to Harrogate High School and improves links to the station and town centre."
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter