Controversial plans to build up to 72 new houses in the historic Yorkshire village of Spofforth have been deferred despite Harrogate Borough Council planning officers recommending approval.
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In edgy and hearfelt exchanges at a planning committee meeting (June 12), the 11-strong committee persistently resisted pressure from planning officers who claimed there was no good reason to defer the application, particularly since, at this stage, it was only being submitted in outline form.
But councillors were very concerned about the extra traffic that would be generated by the new housing estate, earmarked to be located on farm land at Massey Fold at the eastern end of Spofforth, a floral village which lies between Harrogate and Wetherby and prides itself in being mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086.
The chairman of Spofforth Parish Council, Coun Shirley Fawcett, told the meeting: "The main problem is the traffic. It's absolutely terrible."
Meanwhile, Spofforth's Borough councillor, Conservative Andrew Paraskos, highlighted the problems facing pedestrians; and he denied the developer's claim that the narrow footpath along Harrogate Road - where the main entrance to the housing estate will be located - was safe.
"It's blatantly not safe," he said. "Pedestrians have to walk single file and you can't get a pushchair or wheelchair along the footpath."
According to Spofforth resident Stewart Killin, this would mean most residents would either get into their cars; or walk - but put themselves at risk.
He also highlighted other problems which would be caused if the application was approved including the impact on Spofforth's primary school and on dental and medical services in the village.
Altogether Harrogate Council received 172 representations from Spofforth residents, all objecting to the plans and on a variety of grounds including that the proposed land was known to flood; that the site was one of potential archaeological interest; and that the northwestern corner of the site lay within Spofforth's conservation area.
Harrogate Council's planning department acknowledged that the application by the Ilkley-based property developer Opus North (part of real estate investment giant, Palmer Capital) would cause harm to the setting of the village and some ecological damage, but argued that this would be "limited" and that any impact would be "adequately mitigated."
The planners also felt such considerations were outweighed by the benefits offered by the new housing estate. These included providing additional housing to meet the needs of the Harrogate district. Plus the financial contribution promised by the developer towards the maintenance and enhancement of Spofforth's existing facilities and services.
Opus North had already amended its original planning application, reducing the number of proposed houses from 84 to a maximum of 72.
Disagreeing with the advice of planning officials, councillors unanimously backed the suggestion by Coun Robert Windass (Con, Boroughbridge) that any decision should be deferred until after the committee had been given the opportunity to closely question a representative of North Yorkshire County Council's highways department about safe access to and from the proposed estate.
It was also suggested that an official from the County Council's education department should be present to spell out exactly what impact the new housing development would have on Spofforth's primary school; whether an extension would have to be built - or children forced to travel elsewhere.
It was agreed that the meeting with County County officials should be arranged as quickly as possible.