Councillors to debate plans for 161 homes on Harrogate's old policing college site

The site off Yew Tree Lane in Harrogate was once home to the National Policing Improvement Agency. Picture: Google
The site off Yew Tree Lane in Harrogate was once home to the National Policing Improvement Agency. Picture: Google

The majority of a former policing college site in North Yorkshire could be demolished to make way for new housing after standing empty for four years.

Once home to an National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) college, the land off Yew Tree Lane in Harrogate would accommodate 161 homes as well as playing fields and a children’s play area.

Developer David Wilson Homes has said it would convert four of the existing buildings – North Lodge, Headmasters House, Kensington House and the library – into 14 homes.

But the rest of the site would be demolished to allow for the construction of 147 terraced, semi-detached and detached homes with between one and five bedrooms.

A report to Harrogate Borough Council’s planning committee notes that the 8.62 hectare site has been vacant since late 2013 when ownership passed back to the Home Office.

It had been the operational base for 184 NPIA staff, with more than 1,200 police officers visiting every year for training.

Permission for a major redevelopment of the training centre was granted in November 2006, but the plans were never implemented.

Instead the NPIA announced in 2011 that the site would be closed as part of a massive cost-cutting exercise and the agency itself was then dissolved in October 2013, with the newly formed College of Policing taking over much of its work.

The report to councillors said there were “no economic or environmental effects of development that significantly or demonstrably outweigh the social benefits of providing new housing in this location”, despite half the site falling within the Crimple Special Landscape Area.

It highlighted the fact that 64 homes would be affordable and the site has a draft housing allocation for 161 homes in the council’s emerging local plan.

Concluding that conditional approval should be given, it added: “The development has significant social benefits in contributing to the council’s housing land supply... and other social benefits including the provision of an on-site playing field and public open space and contributions to allow the delivery of significant off-site playing field development.”

Contributions will also be sought towards off-site public open space and local schools.

However, 68 letters of objection and four ‘neutral’ letters were received during three public consultations. Key concerns included the ‘excessive number’ of homes, development of land not previously built upon, the impact on local road network and a lack of supporting infrastructure.

Harrogate Civic Society also voiced concern about the scale of the proposed development.

Its representation concluded: “The benefits of retaining Kensington House do not outweigh the harm caused by a greater density of development resulting in reduced open space and less regard for the Special Landscape Area, and a likely exacerbation of traffic difficulties.”

The application will be considered when the committee meets at the council offices in Crescent Gardens at 2pm on Tuesday.