Council tries to end row over £10 million offer by Harrogate business to 'save' Crimple Valley

Rupert Visick on behalf of Forward Investments at the land at Crimple Valley.
Rupert Visick on behalf of Forward Investments at the land at Crimple Valley.

Planning bosses at Harrogate Borough Council have tried to settle a dispute over a £10 million offer to ‘save’ Crimple Valley from development as ‘a matter of disagreement’.

Last month, Harrogate business, Forward Investments (FI), made a £10 million offer to buy council-owned land at Crimple Valley, which has been designated for development in the district’s local plan.

However, HBC’s Cabinet Member for Planning, Councillor Rebecca Burnett discredited the £10m offer, calling it a publicity stunt.

As part of their offer, Forward Investments suggested that a neighbouring site which sits in the green belt would be a more sustainable alternative but Coun Burnett explained that it was not possible to simply swap the land.

Her response prompted the business to write to Coun Burnett asking her to ‘publicly withdraw’ her statements.

Writing on behalf of Forward Investments, Rupert Visick said: “The Council’s argument that there is simply no need to review green belt boundaries because it has identified sufficient land is self-defeating if part of that ‘sufficient land’ is less sustainable than a nearby alternative.”

Mr Visick added that Forward Investments had even offered to ‘sponsor’ a green belt review “well over a year ago in sufficient time to inform the local plan”, adding that the offer still stands.

In her reply, Coun Burnett, said: “Whist you say that your team of professional planning experts have reviewed your proposals and believe them achievable within the policy framework, my team of professional planning experts have reviewed them and believe them to be unachievable within the policy framework.

“It’s unlikely either team of experts will change their minds - so we need to accept this as a matter of disagreement on a subject which is open to interpretation.”

Coun Burnett added that any further debate on the issue should be saved for the local plan examination with the appointed independent inspector.

Responding to Forward Investments’s offer to sponser a green belt review Coun Burnett said: “Money is not a problem, the problem is the justification for doing it.

She added: “Whether he wants to pay for it or not, it’s not appropriate.”