Examinations In Public for the Harrogate District Local Plan
As you may know, the Examination in Public of the Harrogate Borough Council Local Plan has now been underway for two weeks. The Action Group and its professional representatives have been heavily involved. Of course it is not wise to speculate about the outcome but we feel that in the early part of the hearings we have made strong points against the proposal to build a 3000 house New Town on the edge of our villages.
In particular, forensic text and number analysis of hundreds of pages of documents by our team has enabled us to demonstrate major flaws in the Council’s assessment of numbers of houses required:
· We established the Council had “double counted” an important number leading to the housing number requirement being wrongly inflated by 950 houses.
· We exposed another arithmetic error in the Council’s figures which had led to inflation of the required house numbers by another 670 houses.
Harrogate Council has publicly conceded these two mistakes but has, typically, brushed them aside. The Council has said, in terms, that it stands by the original numbers as, even if they are inflated by mathematical errors, it simply gives a more comfortable “buffer” in the plan. We shall have to see what the Inspector makes of this. But it is shocking that paid officials made such basic errors, endorsed by elected Council members, in the assessment of the number of houses required over the plan period.
Another positive development is that during the hearings the Council’s barrister stated that, having reviewed the grounds of objection to site GH9, (the piece of land at Green Hammerton immediately west of the B6265 at the junction with the A59) the Council had decided to withdraw it as a housing allocation. This is very welcome and is the first time, as far as we are aware, that the Council has backed down on any housing allocation in this whole process.
On Tuesday, 29 January we reached the critical stage of the hearings when the Inspector reviewed the Green Hammerton/ Cattal Broad Location for Growth (in other words, the New Town proposal). The inspector, as in many of the previous hearings got stuck in to the grass root issues, re-visiting the sustainability appraisal and trying to get HBC to explain what were the reasons for changing from the most sustainable option( expanding on major urban areas) to the least sustainable option (new settlement). He also questioned HBC on how our villages could possibly support a new settlement in the early stages. HBC had no proper answer for either of these questions which must not have impressed the inspector.
The developers swooped in to the aid of HBC and made promises about infrastructure improvements and new schools. This gave our barrister the opportunity to expose Oakgate and CEG’s proposals as not being viable or deliverable. He went on further to explain to the inspector that the competition between the two developers would not work, and that HBC would not be able to manage the conflicts of interest between the two developers. Also that the approach that HBC are taking will end up with mass housing and a lot less services and infrastructure that is currently being promised. This pretty much went unchallenged as the inspector tended to agree with what our barrister was saying.
The Flaxby developer continued to go down the legality of the selection process and highlighted the flaws in the Sustainability Appraisal and in more detail than the inspector was wanting, how some of the scoring of the site assessments was factually incorrect. It was difficult to gauge how this was received by the inspector but what it certainly did was highlight that the plan has not been positively prepared as Harrogate have been claiming.
The day was a difficult day, hard to predict what the inspector still needed help on understanding, bearing in mind that we have given him a lot to consider already. It was difficult also to know where we stood at the end of the hearing as the inspector has a good poker face. What we do know is that we gave it our best shot, our barrister was well prepared, and we have presented a strong case for not needing a new settlement.
The Inspector will be taking a week long break from the hearings and he has said that he plans to drive around the areas where he still has concerns. We are certain that he will have another drive around the Hammertons, and Cattal, visiting all the places that we have raised in the hearings including the Railways Stations, Village Shop, Schools, Heritage Sites and along the A59. There isn’t much we can do other than make sure our signs and banners are visible.
The last hearings the Action Group will be attending is on Tuesday, 12th February starting at 10am in the Civic Centre, St Luke’s Avenue, Harrogate, HG1 2AE. The public area accommodates around 40 people and if you plan to come then you will need to arrive around 9:30am – seating is on a “first come first served basis”. This hearing is about Heritage and Place-making and although this hearing might not be specifically about the new settlement, we do feel their may be opportunities for our views to be heard.
As you know CEG have an application for their proposed new settlement being considered by Harrogate Council. The action group and many residents have already made comments to the original application. Harrogate Council have since received new details from CEG and they have opened up an online consultation.
This Application number is 18/02240/EIAMAJ. – RECONSULTATON FOLLOWING RECEIPT OF ADDITIONAL INFORMATION The proposed development is EIA Development for the purposes of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017 and the planning application was accompanied by an Environmental Statement. Notice is hereby given that additional information which supplements the original Environmental Statement has now been submitted to Harrogate Borough Council by the applicant and is available for inspection.
The deadline for making comment should have now expired but Harrogate Council has allowed the Action Group an extension to the end of the month and today we sent our second letter of objection, (to view please click HERE). You can also view this letter along with the first / original letter on our website under the tab for LETTERS at www.kghg.co.uk
You may also be aware of this application which refers to the area around Cattal Station – Called Maltkiln Village. This application number is 19/00017/EIAMAJ on the Harrogate Planning Website at http://www.harrogate.gov.uk/publicaccess
19/00017/EIAMAJ – Outline planning application for the construction of up to 4,000 residential dwellings (Use Class C2 and C3), employment land (Use Class B1, B2 and B8), a mixed-use local centre (Use Class A1, A3, A4, A5 and D1), two primary schools (Use Class D1), and associated infrastructure including site preparation, landscaping, open space, drainage, access roads, highways works and utilities with all matters reserved.
This is the first time Oakgate have submitted an application proposal for a new settlement and it is critical that we make objections as we did with CEG. The action group is now working on guidance notes on this and we will issue these by email and a letter-drop once complete.
Please look out for these as they will be arriving shortly. The deadline is around the 24th February, so we do have a little more time to prepare and we plan on distributing this next week.
We apologise if this all seems overwhelming, there is so much happening at the moment and it is hard to keep up. Objecting to these applications is so important and we thank you in advance for your support.Keep The Hammertons Green Action Group.