'Shambolic' plan for 210 homes on Harrogate-Wetherby border returns 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.

Wednesday, 11th September 2019, 2:18 pm
The proposed development which is on the edge of Wetherby, but falls within Harrogate district boundaries.

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 a private session saw them perform an abrupt U-turn and approve the plans.

The move provoked outrage from Wetherby residents and led to Mr Shelbrooke lobbying the Secretary of State to reject the proposal.

The MP also slammed the council for its 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 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," he said.

"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 is not 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.

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter