Harrogate once again at risk of planning free-for-all after council's housing miscalculation

Harrogate Borough Council

Harrogate Borough Council

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Harrogate could once again be at risk of a planning free-for-all following a ruling that the council does not have a five-year supply of housing.

In June, plans for 75 houses at Nidd House Farm in Killinghall were rejected on the basis that it would case "significant harm" to the village and the landscape character.

However, the decision by Harrogate Borough Council's Planning Committee was successfully appealed by Gladman Developments after they argued the council could not demonstrate a five-year supply of housing.

The planning inspector agreed that the council did not have a 5.5 year supply supply, as HBC had claimed, and allowed the appeal to go through as a result.

All local planning authorities are required by th National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to identify and keep up-to-date a "deliverable five-year housing land supply".

The NPPF warns that, without this, permission for housing developments should be granted unless "any adverse impacts outweigh the benefits".

An NPPF statement read: "The message is clear. If you don't have a deliverable five year housing land supply, you are at risk, even if you have an adopted Core Strategy or Local Plan."

The council's five-year supply of housing now stands at just 4.87 years and Coun Rebecca Burnett, cabinet member for Planning, admitted the situation was worrying.

She said: "The inspector has found that we should have calculated our five-year supply differently. There were some houses we expected to be delivered which he said may not be deliverable.

"This will be news to every other council in the country. We were expecting a test case to find out whether we've been calculating it correctly but unfortunately it's not.

"There's a lot of development planned in my area for Harlow Hill so we know exactly how worrying it is as local members campaigning for and against different things.

"Unfortunately, the situation with no Local Plan and no five year housing supply means that the case is even more on the developer's side which is really difficult."

The council published its Strategic Housing Market Assessment in June which indicated that there was an annual requirement to build 557 homes a year from 2014-2035.

However, the inspector indicated the 175 of these houses would be unlikely to come forward in the five year period and that the council's 20 per cent buffer should be revising, resulting in a requirement of 643 homes a year.

As a result of the inspector's verdict and the current shortfall in housing, three previously refused planning applications for more than a combined 300 homes were brought back to the committee for consideration on Tuesday.

All three applications are currently in the appeal stage and Coun Burnett said that they were being brought back to be reconsidered with this new material consideration in mind.

The application for 78 homes south of Bar Lane in Knaresborough and 165 homes on Cornwall Road were still recommended for refusal but an application for 91 homes at Kingsley Road was this time recommended for approval.

However the Planning Committee once again refused all three applications as well as an application for 73 homes off Ripon Road in Killinghall which was also recommended for approval.

"We are not bringing the applications back to the committee with the intention of approving them all. Some of them are coming back still recommended for refusal and we don't want to add any more houses into that list.

"It's just that material conditions have changed from when we first made the decision so aspects have changed in terms of what they need to consider.

"They may still say no to all of them but they have the chance to look at them again."

Councillors first raised concerns that Harrogate was at risk of speculative developments in 2014 when the council decided to withdraw its Local Plan.

A Government Inspector had blasted the plan as inadequate two months previously sparking the unanimous decision.

However, despite these fears, Coun Burnett said that the council did not get the "onslaught" of applications it was expecting with the majority of those approved included in the Draft Local Plan.

She stressed that the council were now doing as much as they could to put the Local Plan in place to avoid applications merely being judged on their own merits.