Councillors warned district will need to build thousands more homes

Stock: New houses
Stock: New houses

A whole new town may need to be built near Harrogate to accommodate the increasing need for new houses.

Council members have been warned to expect the number of new houses required in the district to increase by thousands due to the failure to keep up with demand in recent years.

Coun Christine Willoughby (Lib Dem, Knaresborough East) said: “Because we haven’t managed to build the houses we should have built in the last five years we are woefully behind.

“I worry that if we allocate land all over the place we will ruin Harrogate and Knaresborough and what makes it special. But there is a need for housing, the number of people on the council house waiting list is horrendous, but even the places we have given planning permissions to haven’t started building.”

In 2009 a Core Strategy was adopted which stated that 390 houses would need to be built in the Harrogate district each year to keep up with need.

However, in recent years the number of houses being built has declined to less than half of this level. From April 2009 to September 2013 just 870 new houses were built, less than 160 per year on average.

The Advertiser believes that up to an additional 8,000 houses could be required to be built in the area, leading some councillors to call for a new town or village to be created.

A spokesperson for the council would not confirm these figures but said: “A new Core Strategy will need to plan for new homes up to 2035. Work is required to determine what level of new homes will be needed over that period and this is likely to be higher than the current 390 per year figure.”

Conservative Coun Jim Clark (Rossett) has said it is vital to preserve the aspects of Harrogate that make it a good place to live.

“The number of houses does worry me considerably as to how that number could be justified.

“It is important we preserve the aspects of the town that makes it. We need to look at some of the settlements to the east of Harrogate and some brownfield sites that could be utilised.

He added: “We need to make sure more of the housing is aligned with the main infrastructure. Looking east to west that is the railway line and north to south that is the A1.

“That means the Flaxby area would seem to be ideal. There is an opportunity to create sites outside of Harrogate itself.”

Lib Dem councillors have pushed the idea of creating a whole new settlement in the district to accommodate the huge numbers of housing.

Coun Helen Flynn (Lib Dem, Nidd Valley) said: “This is a really good opportunity to be quite innovative in ways to meet housing needs, we could look at creating an energy efficient new development.

“My worry is that we are already behind and it is going to take three to four years to develop a new strategy so how long is it going to take before we can start building.

“There is a lack of affordable housing and it is affecting people locally, this is the biggest crisis the country is facing.”

Based on the average number of people per house in the UK, an additional 8,000 houses could lead to a population swell of over 16,000 people, more than the current population of Ripon.

Coun Ian Galloway (Con, Bishop Monkton) said:”Where are all these people going to work? The jobs aren’t there, Harrogate pay isn’t enough to pay the mortgages on these houses.

“We are seeing applications for farm land we are going to end up going into the countryside at some point.

He added: “These are very very early days, we are still waiting on the government, we are getting so many confusing messages from Westminster.”

Councillors have been told of the need for thousands more homes in ‘informal meetings’ and ‘briefings’ meaning there are no publicly available agendas or minutes relating to discussions.

This practice has criticised as a ‘worrying trend’ by Coun Flynn who said the lack of debate signals an ‘erosion of democracy.’