Campaigners in Ripon face fresh battle over West Lane homes plans

Protesters at the start of the public inquiry outside Ripon Spa Hotel. Picture: Adrian Murray.
Protesters at the start of the public inquiry outside Ripon Spa Hotel. Picture: Adrian Murray.
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Just as residents feel closer to hearing a final verdict on plans for hundreds of homes in Ripon, campaigners opposing the development have highlighted a new and unexpected battle to defeat building on the site.

Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) has included the site to the south west of West Lane in its draft local plan, despite joining residents in helping to fight an application from Gladman Developments to build 390 homes, which the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, is now determining following a public inquiry.

Mr Javid intervened on the grounds that the development includes proposals which could have an “adverse impact” on Fountains Abbey as a World Heritage Site.

HBC’s Cabinet member for planning, Rebecca Burnett, told the ‘Gazette this week that building on the site has not been ruled out.

Coun Burnett said: “The site is included in the Publication Draft Local Plan because assessments show that, in principle, it is possible to develop the site if the appropriate mitigation measures are put in place. Those measures are set out in the site requirements that accompany the draft allocation in the plan.

“The council’s planning committee decided when looking at this particular application that it was not acceptable to them. That doesn’t mean that every application will be unacceptable - just that this particular one was.”

Members of Ripon Residents Planning Group who have campaigned against the application from Gladman Developments alongside Ripon City Council, the National Trust and fellow residents, have slammed Harrogate Borough Council’s decision to still consider the site as being deliverable for building new homes.

The group has written an open letter to HBC taxpayers voicing their frustration that the council has invested time and money in the public inquiry, but has still included West Lane in their draft local plan.

While HBC still opposes the current application by Gladmans that went to public inquiry, Ripon Residents Planning Group member David Ingham said that with any other application for the site the principle would still be the same, that any housing developments there would still be harmfully close to Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal.

Mr Ingham said: “I am just amazed that this could happen, it really does seem to be a direct conflict within the council. For any other application, all the issues would still be exactly the same. It’s the principle of building towards the World Heritage Site.”

Although the inclusion of West Lane in the draft local plan has created anger and concern among residents, Mr Ingham said if the public inquiry’s decision is to stop the plans for 390 homes, the verdict could give some protection to defeating any future applications.

He said: “Over eight to ten days we had the inquiry, and we heard from the National Trust how much of an impact the development would have on the World Heritage Site, and the arguments were all very strong. If it’s turned down, I think there will be quite a narrative defence to make it more difficult to build on that site in the future. It should give us some protection for years to come.”