Following comment from the Secretary of State’s Planning Inspector, Planning Officers will be recommending to a full meeting of Harrogate Borough Council that the Sites and Policies Development Plan Document (DPD) should be withdrawn.
The Harrogate District Core Strategy was adopted in February 2009. It sets out a vision for what the district should be like by the year 2021 and provides strategic planning policies for the development and conservation of the district during that period. To enable the continuous delivery of housing for at least 15 years from adoption, the Core Strategy plans for new housing up to 2023/24.
The Sites and Policies DPD, seeks to deliver the strategic planning policies of the Core Strategy on the ground. It seeks to achieve this through the identification of individual parcels of land for new development, the protection of the countryside and important environmental and historic features and the setting out of policies against which planning applications for development and change of use will be assessed. This DPD comprises a written statement of its policies and their justification, and a map illustrating, where appropriate, where these policies will apply.
In November 2013 Harrogate Borough Council submitted the Sites and Policies DPD to the Secretary of State for public examination. The Inspector appointed to examine the plan opened the hearing sessions on 23 April 2014.
At this session, the Inspector raised concerns in respect of the evidence to support employment land allocations and housing provision. Sites and Policies DPD hearing sessions on 29 April to 1 May were therefore postponed in order that the Inspector could provide the council with a letter outlining his concerns in more detail.
The inspector raised concerns in two main areas:
- The plan proposed building 390 houses per year, this is far below the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) of 1,086 houses.
- The NPPF also says that that he Local Plan should be based on adequate, up to date and relevant evidence about the economic social and environmental characteristics and prospects of the area. The Harrogate Borough Employment Land Review 2006 (LCD47) has been used. This document was the evidence base for the Core Strategy (2009). This Employment Land Review was produced in a very different national, regional and local policy context. Importantly, the background data on which it was based dates back to at least 2002. The inspector commented that much has changed since this data was collated.
Dave Allenby, Harrogate Borough Council’s Head of Planning and Development said: We have now had sight of the Planning Inspector’s letter and it is clear from his concluding remarks that the concerns that he has raised go to the heart of the document and resolution of these issues within the timeframe of an Examination will not be possible. The council will now need to prepare a new plan that looks at the possibility of accommodating a significant increase in housing and employment growth if the concerns expressed by the Inspector are to be addressed.
Between the adoption of the Core Strategy and the submission for examination of the Sites and Policies DPD, the government has introduced significant changes to the planning system and to national planning policy. As a result, the Inspector needs to be satisfied that the plan has been prepared on the basis of a strategy which seeks to meet the district’s full objectively assessed development and infrastructure requirements. These changes have resulted in a number of local authorities up and down the country facing some very difficult decisions in respect of the plans that they are preparing. Clearly the decision to recommend that the plan is withdrawn is disappointing as this has been a plan in the making for a number of years and has been produced following extensive consultation with the local community.
A decision on whether to withdraw the Sites and Policies DPD will be made by an extraordinary meeting of the full council, currently envisaged to take place on Wednesday 14 May 2014.
Cllr Helen Flynn, Lib Dem Shadow Member for Finance & Resources at HBC said: Even though the Lib Dem Group could see this coming, and have objected to the Local Plan on strategy grounds from the first, I must admit this comes as a severe blow to all who live in the District. This plan was six years in the making, so it really does beggar belief that this has happened. The fact that we now effectively have a developers’ “free-for-all” as we do not have an adopted plan, I know is of great concern to many residents of the Borough. At the Extraordinary Council Meeting on 14 May, we will be asking how much this fiasco has cost the local taxpayers and how those who are accountable should act in this matter. We shall also be pressing that the new plan takes seriously, and as it basis, our alternative strategy for a new ECO town or village, near the A1 and rail infrastructure.