Where is the best place for thousands of new homes to built in Harrogate?

Flaxby Park is one of the potential sites for the district's new settlement
Flaxby Park is one of the potential sites for the district's new settlement

Representatives from across the business community of Harrogate filled the Crowne Plaza Hotel, where blueprints for three major housing developments near the A59 were outlined.

On Monday evening close to 100 people gathered for a meeting, organised by the Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce, which saw representatives for the potential sites of Flaxby Park, Maltkin Village and Hammerton present their plans. The evening also saw an update for the recently approved business site, Flaxby Green Park.

Following a minutes silence in honour of Lord Lieutenant for North Yorkshire Barry Dodd CBE, who was tragically killed in a helicopter crash,Brian Dunsby, OBE, Transport Spokesperson for the Chamber in an opening statement spoke of the impact the sites could have.

He said: "The aim tonight is to highlight the three housing proposals along the A59 to the east of Harrogate, three different housing proposals and one large business development. All of which have an impact on businesses in Harrogate, their employees past, present and for the potential future. So there is a lot of interest in this, and this is why there is such a large audience here tonight."

Harrogate Borough Council has identified in the district's Local Plan that enough land has to be found for more than 14,000 homes to be built on through to 2035.

To support this level of growth a large development needs to be found, says HBC, a new settlement. These housing sites that have been put forward could be selected to meet this demand, although HBC has highlighted the Hammerton and Cattal area for this in the current plan.

Rupert Visick of Gent Visick, on behalf of Forward Investment first provided an update on the business site of Flaxby Green Park, which is to be built to the south of the A59.

Details on the potential construction of eco lodges, small business units ranging in size from 1,500sqft, were outlined. Although approval for the business park was granted last year an additional application, if approved, could help cover the costs of infrastructure at the site.

Mr Visck said: "This allows us on an incremental basis to fund the infrastructure for the wider development. There is a massive amount of money required to put in for roads, mains drainage and mains electricity into a development site. You are looking at around seven and a half million pounds to finance the infrastructure."

He added:"One really good way to do it is by building on a smaller scale with these units, which would sit within the wood , which creates the environment we are going to create as part of the wider business park, and to build and sell these as we go.

Speaking on the expected times for delivery of the park he said: "We will have coming out of the ground, this time next year buildings capable of occupation realistically at the back end of 2019."

The first speaker on behalf of the housing developers, Matt Johnson Development Director of Flaxby Park Ltd, said the company had invested close to a million pounds, not including the amount spent purchasing Flaxby Golf Course, to put the area forward for development.

Alongside the potential for infrastructure links, including by rail, and future housing growth Mr Johnson spoke on the location and economic benefits it could offer.

He said: "we are on the gateway to Harrogate, several miles from Knaresborough and Harrogate, 15 miles from York. As you are aware ,as Rupert has spoken on, we are directly adjacent to Flaxby Green Park - designated as the strategic employment site which has been identified and granted planning permission by Harrogate Borough Council.

"From our perspective this is a key fundamental principle when you are seeking to establish a sustainable development, having the residential and employment next to each other."

He added: "The retail spend that is created undoubtedly would be routed to Knaresborough and Harrogate, and the settlement would stimulate the borough's economy rather than being absorbed towards York."

James Hall of Barton Wilmore, spoke as the agent for the Oakgate Group who are aiming to see the development of Maltkin village near Cattal. This would cover around 166 hectares and according to the company deliver the largest proportion of the council's housing demand.

Highlighting the transport links at the site Mr Hall said: "You can see that it is located well between Harrogate and York and it enjoys rail infrastructure already and clearly there is the A1, the arterial route to the west, and the A59 running to York.We think its well connected and can be built upon."

He added: "It can be turned into a sustainable and well connected settlement, it can deliver early infrastructure, won't coalesce with existing settlements. it is compact and will be centered on the existing railway station. We believe it has the fewest technical constraints and provides a genuine opportunity for community involvement in its design and have already started this process."

Speaking on the potential for business facilities he said: "We have talked about employment use of up to five hectares, we don't see that as what I call heavy industry or warehousing, but we do think it could be locally focused. That could be craft based, agricultural in nature, but with that we are genuinely seeking suggestions."

Jon Kenny, Development Director of the Commercial Estates Group (CEG) spoke first on the development of Hammerton, which could be built near Green Hammerton and Kirk Hammerton. Alongside pointing to the company's past projects in the town he also highlighted the addition of Lord Matthew Taylor.

He said: "We have been long term investors in Harrogate for 25 years, managing and owning the Exchange above the railway station, and also Central House which is home to 30 individual businesses and 1,400 employees. We have been long terms investors, and will continue to be because we see the importance of this town to our business."

He added: "We have also brought on to our team Lord Matthew Taylor. Anyone familiar with Garden Villages and new major Settlements, he has written the book on what the government is expecting to see come forward on new settlements. He works with us approximately a week every month, to make sure the quality of what we bring is in keeping with Government expectations for major schemes."

Steve McBurney, Head of Planning at CEG also said: "Hammerton has consistently been identified by the council as the most sustainable and suitable location for large scale growth, based on detailed evidence. The draft Local Plan identifies broad location of growth at Hammerton,it sets out requirements including the need for 3,000 dwellings, school and community facilities, the relocation of Johnsons of Whixley a commercial nursery, you might be aware of. I understand there is an application for the relocation will be submitted shortly, five hectares of employment land and improvements to the two existing train stations of Cattal and Hammerton.

He added:"We have not yet identified any barriers to development, the scheme is viable and deliverable. Yes there are utility and infrastructure costs, but these are not insurmountable. The timing of these will not stall development. Our site is available and is ready to go, and will be sustainable from day one."

A number of questions were submitted by the audience on these sites which were put to the speakers after their speeches. Among them was Chamber Treasurer, John Garbutt, who asked for their views on the capacity for additional traffic on the district's road

Agent for Maltkin village, Matt Stephens of Milestone Transport Planning said: "It is clear the existing infrastructure can't accommodate 3,000 extra dwellings of traffic in its current state. There is let funding for the A1 junction, and there are further improvements identified above that which have already secured let funding which the developers will need to contribute towards. This could possible include suring of the A59 as well."

While saying that infrastructure was already in place Mr Johnson said further improvements could be pursued.

He said: "There is existing let funding for junction 47, for the Flaxby development there is additional improvements over and above the let funding, not being significant. The roundabout, designed to take traffic to the side is built and we are proposing a second roundabout, which I think is needed now."

He added: "We feel we are ready and able, we have the infrastructure in place, there would be no substantial dueling costs or diversions of the A59. and is quite strategically located from a highways perspective."

CEG highlighted how public transport could be improved, alongside how traffic could be addressed.

Stuart Wilkins said: "We are focused on traffic impact but also very focused on the sustainability side of our development. We have two existing stations at Cattal and Hammerton and have been in talks with Network Rail on what they would want to see."

He added: "So our focus from the outset is public transport and making most of what we have got. At the same time we are not forgetting about bus based public transport and we accept we would need to run buses from Knaresborough and Harrogate so the site is sustainable, not only by rail but bus as well."

After he highlighted North Yorkshire County Council's ambition for dueling the A59 between York and Harrogate by 2045 several audience members, and Mr Dunsby, questioned the possibility of this date.

Mr Dunsby also highlight that despite optimism of a £12 million funding pot, through NYCC, to provide a dual track between Knaresborough and Cattal, Network Rail stated that this was not possible. The cost of this was estimated as a sum not within the county council's budget.

Towards the end of the meeting Mr Visick also put forward the potential to look more closely at the electric bus service available in York.

He said: "One of the issues that I think has been overlooked is that if you look at York it runs an incredibly successful electric bus network running off park and ride hubs, its growing and versatile. One of the issues of rail, you all touched on, is that its incredibly inflexible, because its based on infrastructure. Buses can react to whatever development occurs. York should be giving us an example of what we could do. Its incredibly efficient, you can build park and rides within reason anywhere, incorporated to any developments that have been discussed."