Lib Dems say it’s time to think ‘outside the box’ on planning for new homes in Harrogate

16 January 2014

Local Lib Dem Councillors at Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) are calling on the Conservative Group to think again about the planning proposals, concerning large new developments in Harrogate, that have been submitted to the Planning Inspectorate as part of the HBC Sites and Policies Development Plan Document

Cllr Helen Flynn, Shadow Member for Finance & Resources, said: On closer examination of the proposals concerning the Penny Pot Lane, Skipton Road and Cardale Park sites in particular, we have become concerned that the studies concerning how the development will affect current road infrastructure are not thorough enough to reveal the true impact of such developments. However, we are also aware that our area desperately needs a substantial amount of new homes. We think that now is the time for the council to be bold and consider plans for building a completely new settlement, akin to an “ecovillage”, close to the A1 and rail facilities, to stem any future impact on Harrogate’s creaking infrastructure.

The Lib Dem Group examination of the plans, led by Cllr David Siddans, a civil engineer with an MSc in Transport Planning, has reviewed very closely the transport assessments for all the large sites proposed in Harrogate. They now have concerns that there may have been problems with the methodology resulting in underestimates of the amount of traffic that will result from these developments and the direction of flow of such traffic.

Cllr David Siddans, Lib Dem Member for Rossett Ward, said: I am concerned that traffic impact may be significantly under-reported for three reasons. First, there is a reliance on the North Yorks County Council/Jacobs traffic model which is based on evening peak hour traffic. Morning peak hour is more critical in locations where school traffic is significant. The morning peak has been modelled more crudely. Second, no account has been taken of uncertainty in forecasts to 2024. Department for Transport guidance recognises uncertainty as an issue. A small level of underestimation of traffic flows will have a significant impact on the calculated Reference/Flow Capacity ratio (RFC) and hence the likelihood of delays at most of the strategic junctions considered. Finally, trips to secondary schools seem to have been ignored in all assessments and the usual North Yorks County Council assumption is based on an average of one trip per day from every eight houses.

Cllr Siddans has asked questions on a number of occasions at council meetingsto air his concerns. The Council submitted the DPD to the Secretary of State for independent examination on 29 November 2013. There will be opportunity for local people to raise concerns with the Inspector when he visits the area, which is likely to be in the Spring, to assess the adequacy of the plan.

Councillor Alan Skidmore, Cabinet Member for Planning, Transport and Economic Development
Councillor Alan Skidmore, Cabinet Member for Planning, Transport and Economic Development

In response to comments from the Lib Dem Councillors at Harrogate Borough Council regarding planning for new homes, Councillor Alan Skidmore, Cabinet Member for Planning, Transport and Economic Development, said: When elected you have a responsibility to the whole district. The package of housing allocations that are included within the Sites and Policies Document was agreed by full council as representing the most sustainable way of addressing the very significant shortage of new homes in the Harrogate district. Identifying the new sites was established through the core strategy, which was itself subject to intense scrutiny through a public examination before being adopted.

The traffic implication of all these housing sites, both individually and collectively, has been carefully assessed using standard highway methodologies by the County Council’s specialist traffic team, which has concluded that the impact will be within acceptable limits.

Councillor Siddans has raised his concerns on numerous occasions, and the County Council as Highway Authority for the district stands by the methodology it has used.

The package of sites will be objectively assessed by an independent government inspector at the forthcoming public inquiry, which will include consideration of all representations made.

The proposal to consider a new settlement close to the A1 is a significant departure from the framework for development established through the core strategy. The council has recently started a review of the core strategy in order to address longer term housing needs. This will present an appropriate opportunity to consider this and other options for accommodating the likely increasing need for new housing over the coming years.

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