Council agree plan to ‘protect greenfield sites’

Harrogate Borough Council on Crescent Gardens.(11090214b)
Harrogate Borough Council on Crescent Gardens.(11090214b)
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Councillors have moved the Harrogate district one step closer to a formal plan for building new homes and businesses in the coming years.

Harrogate Borough Council passed a draft local plan that earmarks sites for around 400 new homes at a packed meeting on Wednesday, October 17.

Party divisions and political bickering dominated the extraordinary meeting of the council, as the ruling Conservative party grouping fought to see their plan for development in the district passed.

Former council leader Don Mackenzie criticised cabinet members for not planning the schemes with “even handedness” while opposition Liberal Democrat councillors branded the process, which they said saw members being given crucial papers only half an hour before the meeting, “shambolic”.

Coun Reg Marsh said: “How can we get a sound plan when we are given these papers half an hour before, to digest and make decisions that will affect the district for years and years? It’s bonkers.”

But Conservative members refuted the claims, saying there had been ample opportunity to examine plans and urging their colleagues to support the plan and protect the district from unrestricted development.

Coun Jean Butterfield said: “No plan is going to keep everybody happy, but this plans is about protecting greenfield sites from developers.”

The draft local plan includes a controversial scheme to build 680 homes on a site at Cardale Park West. Coun Jim Clark, who represents Rossett ward, spoke out against the proposal saying his ward would shoulder “more than its fair share” of new homes.

The meeting also heard objections to two sites in Knaresborough – Manse Farm and the Lido Leisure Park site – including a petition presented by Knaresborough town councillor Andy Wright against the Lido plans, and concerns from Coun Margaret Atkinson about the lack of new housing in small rural communities.

But despite objections, councillors voted 30-16 to approve the draft plan. There will now be a public consultation on the Lido plans from November 16 - January 11, before a more general public consultation is launched, likely to be in spring 2013.