Homes plan ‘too big’ say councillors

The field bordered by Whitcliffe Lane and West Lane. (1409165AM)
The field bordered by Whitcliffe Lane and West Lane. (1409165AM)

Plans for up to 450 homes on the edge of Ripon have come under fire from councillors amid concerns over the size and impact of the development.

At a Ripon council planning meeting on Monday, worries about how local infrastructure and services would cope if building went ahead were raised over the plans for the 23-hectare site on fields south of Whitcliffe Lane, which falls mainly in the parish of Littlethorpe.

Cheshire-based Gladman Developments were told this week that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) will need to be carried out for the site before the company can submit a formal planning application.

Coun Peter Horton (Ind), chairman of the city’s Planning Committee, said: “What we are looking at is a very big change to our city. There are 1,307 properties in the western area of the city bounded by Harrogate Road, the River Skell and Quarry Moor which would suffer a 34 per cent increase in properties if this scheme went ahead.

“There are 1.75 vehicles for every person so that would mean an increase of 780 cars using the roads and if families have 2.4 children that is an extra 1,000 children in the schools.”

He added: “This developer also wanted a meeting in closed session that the public could not attend. We told them that is not how we operate and, as such, the developer has declined to attend.”

The Mayor of Ripon, Coun Mick Stanley (Con), also condemned the proposals.

“The site in Ripon city is outside the development lines and adjacent to a World Heritage Site which I’m sure DEFRA would not be happy about,” he said. “We don’t want to see it developed. I know there has been a call for sites but there is just not the infrastructure for that development.”

Worries about the extent of the scheme were also raised by Coun Pauline McHardy (Ind), who said: “I am concerned about the impact the development will have on Ripon. We do not have the infrastructure for it, we have no bus service to cover it and we don’t know how it will affect schools and the health service.

“There will be an extra 900 adults so where will the employment be for this? How can people afford these new properties? It is excessive in numbers.”

Speaking to the Gazette after the meeting, Coun Andrew Williams (Ind) branded the proposals as “nonsense” and said he took particular issue with the plans as they fall inside his ward of Moorside.

“The loss of the council’s Local Development Framework has led to a free-for-all where people are trying their luck submitting planning applications,” he said.

“This site has never been considered by Harrogate Borough Council as an area suitable for development so I hope it will do the right thing and knock it back.”

In its request to Harrogate Borough Council for the Screening Opinion, the company stated: “Having considered the proposed development at land off West Lane it is our opinion that it is not of the type likely to have significant environmental effects.

“We therefore request the Local Planning Authority adopts a Screening Opinion to confirm no ES (Environmental Statement) is required. We trust Harrogate Borough Council will adopt this as soon as possible so that the planning application can be submitted.”

However, consultees such as the Rural Strategy Officer, the National Trust and the English Heritage all stated they believed an EIA was necessary. Issuing his decision on Wednesday, Chief Planner Gary Bell said: “It is considered that the proposal is likely to have significant effects on the environment such that an Environmental Impact Assessment would be required.”