‘Harrogate needs to be bolder to solve housing crisis’

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Developers proposing to build a whole new village in the district have said the area needs ‘be bolder and more creative’ to solve the district’s housing problems.

Ben Pilgrim from the Skelwith Group which is proposing a 2,400 home development at Flaxby told the Harrogate’s Chamber of Trade that development was ‘inevitable’.

He said: “Jobs and housing are very much intertwined and we believe this new style approach can deliver both in the context of our site and in the wider area.

“We think our new settlement is part of that solution. Piecemeal development around existing settlements is inevitable, but we need to think a bit bolder and be more creative.”

Challenged on whether Skelwith acquired the land with the intention all along of developing it for housing, Mr Pilgrim said that was not the case. However, he said the changing demand for housing had made the group re-think as there was an “over-supply” of golf courses in the area, so it was decided housing would be a better use of the land.

“We are a commercial organisation and we make no bones about the profitability of it,” he added.

John Kirkham, strategic land and planning director at Persimmon Homes stressed the urgent need for housing in the Harrogate district that cannot be ignored.

He asked: “When did we stop thinking we should make provision for people to live? We accept education provision and health provision – why not housing?”

The Chamber of Trade members were also told about the importance of employment land in the district. Rupert Visick spoke about the long-awaited Flaxby Green Park development which developers Gent Visick say could include a new rail halt as well as office and development space for businesses.

Chamber chief executive Brian Dunsby said: “All of the speakers made very strong cases for their developments and provided strong arguments for our members to consider.

“The need for significant numbers of new homes in the Harrogate District has generally been accepted – particularly affordable homes for local people on low incomes. Our speakers showed strong evidence that building new homes can help to create new jobs in the long term, too.

“We also need to ensure there are sites for existing local businesses to expand into, and for outside companies to invest in so they can take advantage of the many benefits of running a business from Harrogate.

He added: “Our members had some concerns about infrastructure, and particularly traffic and transport. The developers made good points about the resulting investment which large developments bring and the reduction in commuting which comes with making more affordable homes available close to local employment.”

What do you think? Does the district need to be bolder to meeting housing need? Email news@harrogateadvertiser.co.uk