Harrogate opposition leader's plea to stop Starbuck's drive-thru plan and keep up battle against 'bullying' developers

Harrogate's Lib Dem leader says residents opposed to a new Starbuck's drive-thru coffee shop deserve to be supported at a forthcoming planning appeal against what she says are "bullying" developers.

Thursday, 13th May 2021, 4:51 pm
A new Starbucks drive-thru? The old 1st Dental Harrogate building on Wetherby Road in Harrogate. (Picture Gerard Binks)

The Harrogate Lib Dem leader's comments follow the decision earlier this week by Harrogate councillors not to continue the fight against a controversial plan for a new Starbucks drive-thru on Wetherby Road near Woodlands corner submitted by Euro Garages which goes to appeal next month.

The U-turn was partly made due to the fact that council officers had originally urged councillors to accept the plans - making it hard to then fight a successful appeal which could prove to be financially costly to Harrogate Borough Council - and taxpayers.

Harrogate Borough Council argues there is no general problem with the planning system and that applications by developers are still judged on a case-to-case basis in accordance with procedure.

It insists it has a successful record on planning appeals and will continue to oppose developments where it feels it has a strong case.

But Coun Marsh says the system now seems to be weighted towards wealthy developers.

Starbucks and Harrogate's planning system:

What Coun Pat Marsh, leader of the Opposition at Harrogate Borough Council, says

Coun Marsh said: "Residents are up in arms about Harrogate Borough Council’s decision not to defend its refusal of the Starbucks Drive Thru coffee shop next to Woodlands junction.

"This site has needed to be developed for a long time and housing and iffices would be options to look at but the owner’s Euro Garages, who own the garage opposite, are desperate to build a drive thru Starbucks.

Count Marsh continued: "Residents and road users have grave concerns on traffic congestion and car manoeuvres in this area and the pollution from idling cars on the site.

"The hours of operation from 7am to 10:pm, seven days a week, would mean that there would be no respite for local residents, who live just feet away.

"Because the council will not defend the council planning committee's original decision, it is now up to local residents and myself to attend the appeal to defend the council’s decision and make the case on why this is the wrong site for a drive-thru coffee shop.

"The council said it could not find any experts to defend the refusal but I am sure that there must be experts out there who would be able to help and guide the residents in this very important case.

Count Marsh said: "This feels like a case of bullying - developers can ask for costs against the council and because this is public money council's often back down because they are concerned at the risk to the public purse, this is wrong on so many levels.

"Already it is an uneven process developers have a right to appeal but local residents don’t if they have what they feel is inappropriate development pushed on them.

Count Marsh added: "If anyone can and will help, please do contact Councillor Pat Marsh on [email protected]

"The residents would also like help and support from their local MP Andrew Jones.

"Please join the 'No To Starbucks Campaign'."

Starbucks and Harrogate's planning system:

What Harrogate Borough Council's cabinet member for planning says:

Coun Tim Myatt said: “When a decision to refuse an application is made for sound planning reasons then the council can, and does, mount a vigorous defence of the decision should the applicant choose to appeal to the national planning inspectorate.

"In the past 12 months, the council has successfully defended more than 80 per cent of decisions at appeal, and has the financial ability to defend cases where the council has a strong case and therefore a chance of being successful.”

Coun Tim Myatt continued :“In most cases where the council rejects an application, the applicant has the option to appeal to the national Planning Inspectorate.

"The inspectorate will reach a decision based on planning considerations alone, and it is therefore important that decisions to reject applications are based on sound planning reasons.

Coun Tim Myatt said: “In some cases that have gone to appeal, like the Motorway Service Area, the council is able to mount a strong case and it is difficult to see why the decision was made by a planning inspector in the way that it was.

"In the case of the drive-through on Wetherby Road, officers made councillors aware that they did not feel they could defend the decision at appeal if councillors chose to reject the application. That is because the planning grounds for refusal were weak.

Coun Tim Myatt said:"The council employs officers to use their professional expertise and to provide this type of advice.

"When councillors refused the Starbucks drive-thru application against officers' advice, officers tried to find a planning consultant who would defend the position voted for by councillors.

"All the planning consultants they approached would not do so because they said the decision was indefensible in planning law.

“Therefore councillors were offered the opportunity to defend their decision in front of a planning inspector. I was disappointed they chose not to do so.

Coun Tim Myatt said: "When councillors make a decision – particularly one that flies in the face of professional advice – they should only do so if they feel able to explain their decision on sound planning reasons. If they are not able to do so then it is difficult to understand why they took the position they did in the first place.

“If councillors decide to reject applications due to public pressure alone then although it may bring them short term popularity it is very likely those decisions will be overturned by the planning inspector at appeal.

"It is only planning grounds that should be taken into consideration by the planning committee, and officers provide valuable professional advice on the strength or otherwise of an applicant’s case."

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