The Borough of Harrogate is on-target to deliver the new houses that have been set out in the local plan.
- Housing land supply for the Harrogate District is healthy, with land supply plans to March 2026
- At times there is pressure from the Planning Committee members or other groups to refuse planning applications on non-planning grounds
- Although there maybe a valid argument of other factors, planning applications are evaluated against “sound planning reasons”
- Over 80% of applications that are referred to the planning inspectorate are dismissed
- Current planning reform may make it more difficult for council’s to challenge applications
- Campaigners believe a more fundamental review of planning processes is needed to allow “real-world” issues to be factored
Housing Land Supply
Harrogate Borough Council’s current housing supply position covers the five-year period to 30 March 2026. It shows that the Council can demonstrate 7.4 years of deliverable housing sites.
That supply is healthy at present and puts the district in a strong position to ensure development occurs where it is planned, and is of high quality – according to the policies of the district’s adopted Local Plan.
The local plan is a plan agreed with the Planning Inspectorate, that Harrogate Borough Council put together, based on guidelines. It gives a targetted number of new houses, along with sites.
To meet the adopted Local Plan, it is important that those sites continue to come forward and are granted approval, particularly those with existing outline planning permissions which we have included in the Land Supply Update.
If a planning application is refused locally (by the HBC Planning Committee) then the applicant has the right to appeal against the decision with the Planning Inspectorate.
Harrogate Borough Council have said that there is a misconception that the council is unwilling to defend appeals on the basis of cost alone.
Decisions on whether to defend an appeal are made on the likelihood of success, and where there is an arguable case a defence will be made.
In some cases it may be that councillors on the planning committee disagree with the planning officer recommendation but that, due to sound planning reasons put forward by the committee, a defence to an appeal can be mounted.
There have been planning decisions that have been made against strong planning officer recommendation and verbal advice, and there has been no realistic defence to present at appeal. That is true for the Wetherby Road application for a Starbucks drive through and the extension of the Harrogate Spring Water bottling plant.
In situations where no sound planning grounds are evident, councillors have been asked if they wish to defend their own decision at appeal. Councillor Pat Marsh will be speaking against application APP/E2734/W/20/3254251 former 1st Dental Laboratories, 112 Wetherby Road, Harrogate, with application to convert to a drive-through Starbucks.
HBC have stressed that decisions should only be made on planning grounds and councillors will be aware of why they have made their decision against strong officer advice.
The authority can demonstrate a significant success at appeal stage over the past two years and demonstrating a willingness to defend decisions made by the planning committee or council officers. The planning inspector dismissed the majority of appeals by applicants.
Planning Appeals – Harrogate District
In May 2021, the Queens speech included planning reform, but reform around speeding up the planning system.
That is a review, according to the government to give a “simpler, faster and more modern planning system”, that can ensure “homes and infrastructure can be delivered more quickly across England”.
The review has been criticised as it would make it harder for councils to ensure the right homes are built to the right standards and in the right places.
But some are calling for a more fundamental review of the planning process, so that it would allow widening of the planning grounds for refusing an application.
An example would be to decline an applications based upon a need to meet environmental policies or carbon emission targets or to push for houses to be built with greater green credentials sooner.
Shan Oakes, Harrogate and Knaresborough Green Party, said:
The law is framed for the default position to be in favour of the developer and the juggernaut must be turned around.
We need to go back to the basics of sustainability – that we need to leave the planet in a better state than we found it.
Our real values need to be embedded in our laws. So what can we do?
We need to lobby our MPs until they realise we do care, push for modernisation of the electoral system, push for a local Citizens Assembly, vote for parties which will respond.
I strongly agree with Harrogate Civic Society that ‘it is a sad fact that planning policy lags behind reality and current thinking.
It is tragic that decisions are still made without reference to THE issues of our time.
If we put those issues centre-stage where they belong we would at last progress.
For example, new homes would all be ecologically and socially sound, prioritising renovations with green spaces instead of new-builds on greenfields, solar panels on roofs not fields, heat pumps, rainwater collection, accommodation for swifts and other urban wildlife etc.
We all need to push hard for change, in various ways.
If we simply stand in nature’s shoes (or paws!) it’s easy: we’d know not to poison our gardens and wider environment, and mow less, and encourage wildflowers …. And then sense might prevail.