Plans back to council
A long-running saga involving a controversial plan to build hundreds of homes near the district border of Harrogate and Wetherby is set to continue next week.
Plans for 210 homes on the Harrogate Road at Stockeld, which last year prompted Wetherby MP Alec Shelbrooke to appeal to the Secretary of State to step in and throw the proposal out, will return to Harrogate Borough Council’s planning committee on Tuesday.
It comes a year after the controversial application was initially rejected by Harrogate councillors, before legal advice received in exempt session saw them perform an abrupt U-turn and approve the plans.
The move provoked outrage from Wetherby residents and led to local MP, Alec Shelbrooke, lobbying the Secretary of State to reject the proposal.
The Member for Wetherby also slammed the council for their U-turn, describing the process as a “shambolic turn of events” which left his constituents with “little faith that the planning process locally is fair, transparent or democratic”.
The application was subsequently frozen while the office of the Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government considered whether to call the application in for examination.
However, in May this year, the Secretary of State’s office revealed it would leave the proposal to the local planning authority to decide.
The delay also saw applicants Hallam Land Management and Stockeld Park lodge an appeal for indecision.
It means the plans will return to Harrogate’s planning committee, where it is set to be met by a bus-load of Wetherby residents plan on sitting in on the meeting.
Among them will be Leeds City Councillor and Wetherby ward member Alan Lamb, who said opposition remained strong towards the proposal.
“It’s been a long battle so far, and there’s a long way to go but (the return to council has) come about from ourselves, MPs, Wetherby Town Council and (community group) Better Wetherby working together.”
Coun Lamb stressed: “We want housing, we’re not nimbys - but it has to be the right type of housing.”
Objectors have previously highlighted that those living on the development would consider themselves Wetherby residents and use the town’s services but would contribute nothing in taxes due to it falling within Harrogate’s boundaries.
Concerns about a lack of education and medical services have also been raised.
Harrogate council officers have recommended the proposal for refusal, primarily because it isn’t included in the district’s draft local plan.
“We think that’s the decision that should have been made in the first place,” Coun Lamb said.
Harrogate’s planning committee will meet on Tuesday, September 17.
Coun Lamb added: “However, the battle is not over as it is highly likely the developer will take this to an appeal.
“Please be assured that we recognise this is not the end and will continue our opposition as long as we have to.
“The feeling in Wetherby is still running high against this proposal and I would urge the public to attend this Planning Committee meeting as a continuing show of strength from our community.”