Thousands of residents could cross the district border into York for retail and services if a new settlement near Green Hammerton goes ahead, a Harrogate councillor has warned.
Borough councillor Nick Brown told a hearing into the district’s draft local plan that speaking out had come at “some personal and political cost”, but he felt he had to do it as a representative for “the whole Borough and wider community”.
While he wouldn’t expand on what that cost was, he made it clear that he favoured Flaxby as the site for a new village, as opposed to the Green Hammerton area which is currently supported in the draft local plan.
Coun Brown said his main input into the location of the new settlement revolved around economic reasons and revealed he had “insultingly” been asked if he or his family had a personal interest in promoting the Flaxby alternative.
“I can categorically say that I or my family do not have any financial interest which in any way would benefit us should the Flaxby area be chosen for development,” the ward member for Bishop Monkton and Newby said.
Instead, he stated that his views were based on concerns that a settlement in the Green Hammerton area – east of the A1 highway – would see new residents head to York for their shopping needs.
“What benefit would there be to the economy of Harrogate, the city of Ripon, Knaresborough, or any of the other smaller towns and villages?” he asked.
In response, Harrogate Borough Council’s QC Paul Brown said that the council’s initial broad area of search for a suitable site had pointed to Green Hammerton at an early stage.
“If one winds the clock back and looks at the way which council analysed it, (and) I appreciate the councillor considers Flaxby would be a better site, (but) that actually wasn’t the point that council would have reached,” Mr Brown said.
“If we had gone the road of drawing a line at that stage, rather than the area of search approach, the line would have not been around the Flaxby site that the councillor wanted.”
Mr Brown would further defend the Green Hammerton site when Richard Moules, a barrister representing Flaxby Park Limited, claimed the process surrounding selection of the new settlement had been “unlawful”.
“Our submission is that the sustainability appraisal is unlawful because it contains flawed assessment of reasonable alternatives,” Mr Moules said.
He added that the developer’s view included that the “council has failed to explain its U-turn from assessing specific sites to looking at one broad location”.
“In our opinion, council has failed to identify and evaluate reasonable alternatives of the proposed broad location,” he said, claiming it was an “unequal approach”.
In response, Mr Brown rejected an assertion from Mr Moules that there hadn’t been a “like for like” comparison of the sites.
“In the early stages of the new settlement report there was a like for like comparison of different settlement proposals… Flaxby was treated entirely fairly and equally in that regard,” he said.
He said factors such as the Green Hammerton and Cattal site’s existing train station and railway connections had worked in that area’s favour compared to Flaxby.
He also added that the preferred site had more scope for expansion.
“It’s a matter of fact that Flaxby is sandwiched between the A1 and Knaresborugh – in contrast, Green Hammerton and Cattal is not so constrained,” he said.
“It can sometimes be relatively fine factors that make the difference,” Mr Brown concluded.
Government-appointed inspector Richard Schofield had attempted to set the tone of the hearing early on, when he said he “didn’t want any touting from Flaxby Park about why their location is better than this one”.
“I’m keen today remains about the broad location for growth rather than a Flaxby Park session,” he said.
Harrogate Borough Council has had two applications submitted for new developments in the supported Green Hammerton area – the 4,000-home Maltkiln Village by the Oakgate Group, and a rival 3,000 home development by Commercial Estates Group (CEG).
Roughly five miles to the west, on the other side of the A1 highway, is Flaxby Park Ltd’s proposal for 2,750 new homes.
Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporting Service