Controversial housing project a step closer

CONTROVERSIAL plans for one of the biggest housing developments Hambleton has ever seen have been backed by councillors as vital to addressing a silent crisis of affordable housing, despite warnings from campaigners it could have a devastating impact on the area.

The Sowerby Gateway project has prompted a wave of opposition after the plans for more than 900 homes built in the village on the outskirts of Thirsk were unveiled.

Sowerby Parish Council and Thirsk Town Council have both raised a series of objections amid concerns over whether the area’s transport infrastructure will be able to cope with the scale of the development.

But full outline planning permission for the scheme and detailed permission for 107 homes and nearly 47,500 sq ft of commercial space was approved by all but one member of the Hambleton District Council planning committee.

Coun Gareth Dadd, who represents Thirsk on both Hambleton District Council and North Yorkshire County Council, said the contentious development was vital to the future of the town and support for it had been drowned out by the vociferous opposition.

“The positive side of this is it provides much needed affordable housing for those that are desperate to get on the housing ladder and to be accommodated in Thirsk,” he said.

“These are people that are frightened to put their heads above the parapet in support of the application because of the noisy minority that have caused such a stink.”

The Sowerby Gateway development will provide 920 homes, 40 per cent of which are affordable, a new seven classroom primary school, employment opportunities and community facilities over the next 15 years.

The scheme, which was first mooted back in 2007, represents the biggest development to ever take place in the district alongside the proposed £200m North Northallerton development master-plan.

Developers from the Castlevale Group are due to undertake major highway improvements, including alterations to the slip roads from the A168.

Opponents have also voiced their worries about the lack of extra educational facilities for the hundreds of children the development will bring in.

Objections have also been raised as to why one village is having to bear the brunt of nearly two-thirds of the district’s housing allocation.

Following the decision to give the go-ahead for the development, the Mayor of Thirsk Coun Cynthia Hesmondhalgh, said: “While this will bring business into the town, that is no good if it completely chokes the roads.

“It could reach the stage where this begins to impact on the tourism in Thirsk. We do have a shortage of housing but to do it all in one is a bit extreme.”

The Sowerby Gateway scheme was identified as part of the council’s Local Development Framework - an overarching document which guides all future developments in the area.