Affordable homes: is the council serious?

From: David Cornmell, Chairman, Rainton with Newby Parish Council.

THE recent decision of Harrogate Council’s development committee to refuse a housing scheme at Rainton, which would have provided eight much needed affordable homes, begs the question: “Is the council really serious about providing affordable homes in our villages or merely paying lip service to the idea?”

I ask this question as the chairman of a parish council which for the past three years have been working with Harrogate Council and its officers to bring about housing at an affordable price for local parishioners, only to see our efforts kicked into the long grass. It also casts doubt on the council’s new district wide arrangements for hearing planning applications that is supposed to be an improvement on the former area system. I think not.

The development scheme at Rainton, had it been approved, would have seen the provision of eight affordable dwellings, alongside five market houses, on land at the rear of The Lamb Inn and an adjoining transport yard.

Last December, together with colleagues from other parish council’s, I was invited to a seminar arranged by Harrogate Council’s housing department, to promote the provision of affordable housing within the district. No lesser person than the Princess Royal, president of the Rural Housing Trust, encouraged and enthused us to go away and do our bit to bring about more affordable homes in our communities. Were the members of Harrogate’s development committee, some of whom were present, listening or merely there to enjoy the free lunch!

Only nine days prior to the development committee’s pronouncement the district council’s own planning committee voted 13 to 2 in favour of the Rainton scheme. Because the planning committee was going against the advice of the planning officer the development committee (a different set of councillors) were called into adjudicate. They did so with devastating consequences – dashing the hopes of many of the young people in my village who are desperate to get a place of their own.

The development committee’s decision is even harder to come to terms with when one considers that the number one corporate priority of Harrogate District Council is to increase the number of affordable homes for young people, key workers and rural communities. Empty words – action speaks a lot louder!