To consider any questions under Standing Order 27.
The Deputy Mayor advised that she had received notification of one public question under Standing Order 27 and she invited the questioner, Rebecca Maunder, to ask her question.
There are many local concerns regarding the very large numbers of houses proposed in the 'Western Arc' of Harrogate. Many concerns relate to a lack of plans and provision to show how these new conurbations will join with existing without a negative impact upon the current infrastructure in terms of roads and services. I am aware that a Parameters Plan is being developed to address some of these concerns and hope that this plan will look to provide exemplary bus services and pedestrian and cycling access and safe and easy routes to ensure there is no increase in local traffic, congestion and air pollution. I also hope that the provision of services is appropriately met and again that the long term quality of life is the key focus and uses levies from the developers to ensure the provision is full and future proofs the community’s needs to enable them to access local services and workspace without the need for car use. Sustainable design is crucial for healthy and affordable living reducing pollution and meeting our carbon reduction targets as well as appreciating that the expansion into the surrounding countryside is far from ideal and requires significant planning for wildlife and biodiversity. My question to you is, with such a large undertaking that has far reaching impacts upon the existing local community, and the whole of Harrogate, can this Parameters Plan be open to full public consultation as soon as possible; to fully understand concerns and use local knowledge and ideas to reach sustainable solutions?
Thank you for the question. The principle of development across the west of Harrogate has been established through the newly adopted Local Plan. Residents and Stakeholders participated in several formal consultations during the formation of the plan, as well as the examination process.
The issue of infrastructure to support the development on the west side of Harrogate was a discussion area during the Local Plan examination, which resulted in a modification to the Local Plan to include a requirement for a West Harrogate Parameters Plan to ensure effective co-ordination of matters such as access, provision of community facilities including education, school provision, green infrastructure, public transport provision, cycling and pedestrian links between sites.
A finalised parameters plan will not be a policy document but will serve as guidance to support the assessment of planning applications.
That guidance is being informed by an assessment of the infrastructure requirements, as well as detailed work on the highways implications of the number of homes proposed.
The completed Parameters plan will set out the total infrastructure required to support the development of the sites, including phasing plans setting out build rates and triggers for infrastructure to show how each phase of development is sustainable and deliverable.
As the document is a guidance document for the assessment of applications rather than official policy, the document is not subject to the statutory consultation processes that would otherwise apply. There are therefore no formal requirements to hold a public consultation event.
However, the council is aware of the significant public interest in this process, and feel it would be wrong for a parameters plan to be drawn up without community involvement. Therefore, to ensure that the community are engaged in the process targeted engagement has been, and will continue to be, undertaken.
In September an initial round of engagement sessions was held with the following resident’s groups/Parish Councils:
• Harlow and Pannal Ash Residents Association (HAPARA)
• Pannal and Burn Bridge Parish Council
• Haverah Park with Beckwithshaw Parish Council
Separate meetings relating specifically to highways have also been undertaken with these groups.
The council team values the input of the local community to this process and have found the discussions constructive and helpful. The key points raised in these preliminary meetings, and separate meetings in relation to the draft document and transport focussed discussions, have been considered and also summarised to inform an assessment by an independent design review panel.
Councillors have also been engaged in the development of the parameters plan, with a September meeting of the Council’s District Development Committee including a presentation and discussion of the emerging parameters plan.
Shortly after taking up my post as Cabinet Member for Planning I was joined by an Officer from Planning team when I met representatives of the Western Arc Co-ordination Group who – at that time – represented the following groups:
• Haverah Park with Beckwithshaw Parish Council
• Duchy Residents’ Association
• Hampsthwaite Action Group
• Harlow & Pannal Ash Residents’ Association
• Harrogate District Cycle Action
• North Rigton Parish Council
• Pannal & Burn Bridge Parish Council
• Zero Carbon Harrogate
Once the parameters plan draft is complete, a further round of engagement sessions will be undertaken with all of the above groups. This will include a presentation of the key features of the Parameters Plan document, followed by a Question & Answer session with Council officers and the site promoters.
The queries and comments received through that engagement will be recorded and a response to each point will be provided. This information will be made publicly available alongside the completed parameters plan when it is finalised and published on the Councils website.
As previously mentioned, the parameters plan is a guidance document for use when assessing planning applications. It should be noted that each application in the west of Harrogate will be the subject of an individual planning application, and that members of the public will have the opportunity to comment on the planning applications when they are made. Dependent on the actions of developers, the public may also have an opportunity to speak to site promoters before this when the promoters undertake pre-application consultation.
Should Ms Maunder be aware of any resident groups who I have not mentioned today but who she feels would make a positive contribution to our future targeted engagement, then I am happy to explore whether it is possible to include that group in the next stage of discussion.
THE MAYOR, COUNCILLOR STUART MARTIN, IN THE CHAIR
The council are hopefully aware of the recent decision to reject a variation for a larger extension of Harrogate Spring Water and the substantial public support to conserve Rotary Wood that application generated. Following that and the negative press generated, can Harrogate Council now confirm all of Rotary Wood will remain as publicly owned & accessible green space and no plan to lease or sell will be considered.
Thank you for the question.
As Cabinet Member for Economic Development, I always welcome the opportunity to talk about businesses like Harrogate Spring Water who have been a significant district employer and promoter of Harrogate as a healthy, spa based tourism town, open to the world. This business has invested heavily in Harrogate and I gather that the Harlow Moor based site showcases the highest bottling standards in the industry - environmentally efficient, recognised green building standards, and zero waste management practices. HSW was North Yorkshire’s first certified “B-Corp” business delivering the highest standard of verified social, environmental and governance standards aimed to deliver a more inclusive and sustainable economy. Most residents are proud of the work HSW has done for this town, bottling water at source.
As Cabinet Member for Economic Development I welcome and encourage more businesses such as these into Harrogate and literally living as its closest west side neighbour for over ten years, I can tell the council that they have worked hard to meet neighbour considerations and listen carefully to genuine concerns as they have developed their business and worked hard to improve the water basin of our shared product. Whilst no business is perfect in this regard, I would choose them as a neighbour exemplar and encourage residents to work with them as they work with us.
I am very aware of the recent decision taken at planning committee. Professional planning officers worked through all sides of the case and came to a clear, balanced recommendation. My own reading of the application is that it was a modest variation in scale, increased employment by 87 people and provided major improvements in ESG (environmental and social governance) performance.
However as Mr Hind points out in his question there has been some noise generated around this application, with approximately 300 objections from our 169 000 residents. Unfortunately much of the noise associated with these concerns failed to recognise that the same committee have already approved an outline planning application on this site back in 2017 and this amendment or variation was largely aimed at improving the environmental credentials of the plan. This original approval was a unanimous decision by planning committee, and I was therefore personally surprised to see an improved variation in my eyes to be turned down on this occasion.
Specifically addressing Mr Hind’s question, a key component of the Council making any decision about a potential disposal of land is to ensure that we have access to the full facts, so that all relevant considerations can be taken in to account. The planning status of a site is one of these key considerations, therefore as the Reserved Matters application is still to be determined by Planning Committee it would be premature at this stage to comment on a potential future disposal. Equally it would be wrong of me to interfere with planning matters or attempt to override planning decisions by causing obstruction to their decisions. Our committee have already taken the decision to approve one application from a significant local business and although reserved matters are still to be dealt with, I for one am not prepared to interfere with the planning process or attempt to limit it in its powers.
It is important to note, however, that if HBC do eventually choose to lease or sell this site we will – as always – abide by proper procedures relating to the site including considering ACV status, and also ensure that council achieves and demonstrates best consideration for our asset – a critical hurdle for all public bodies such as Harrogate Borough Council.