DISTRICT DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE
16 NOVEMBER 2017
AGENDA ITEM 5 – PUBLIC ARRANGEMENTS – QUESTIONS
1. Question from Linden Veitch, Knaresborough
Harrogate Borough Councils Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (June 2017) in HS10 : Providing for the Needs of Gypsies and Travellers makes it very clear that Proposals for new Gypsy and Traveller sites or extensions to existing sites should not be located within the Green Belt except in very special circumstances and ‘be of a size commensurate with the nearest settled community’. Can HBC explain what are the very special circumstances that justify the re-designation of 3 temporary sites in Calcutt as permanent sites especially given the disproportionate allocation of existing Gypsy sites within the Calcutt area to the rest of the Harrogate District.
Whilst Policy HS10 does state that proposals for new Gypsy and Traveller sites or extensions to existing sites should not be located within Green Belt except in very special circumstances, this relates to the decision making process for planning applications where there would be a requirement for an applicant to demonstrate very special circumstances to gain approval.
National planning policy however does allow for a local planning authority to make an exceptional limited alteration to the defined Green belt boundary including removing a site from the Green Belt, to accommodate a site to meet a specific, identified need for a traveller site. The sites at Calcutt are recommend for allocation for the following exceptional circumstances:
•lack of any deliverable alternative site(s)
•small number of pitches required
•the sites are privately owned, well established and provide a settled base that enables the families to access education, health, welfare and employment infrastructure
•certainty that the district pitch requirement can be delivered
Harrogate District has a long standing identified unmet need this together with no available sites elsewhere constitute exceptional circumstances.
National planning policy states that the number of pitches should be related to the circumstances of the specific size and location of the site and the surrounding populations size and density. Each of the three existing sites are small and accommodate one family each and have been assessed as being of a size commensurate with the nearest settled community. The allocation boundary for each site has been drawn tightly round the existing site allowing no opportunity for further expansion into the Green Belt.
2. Question from Chris Chelton, on behalf of the Keep Green Hammerton Action Group
Despite hundreds of compelling objections, the draft Local Plan still recommends Green Hammerton for the new settlement. However it now adds uncertainty by introducing “additional flexibility to enable a full consideration of adjoining land which has also been promoted as a new settlement (known as Maltkiln)”. This makes the actual boundary of the site totally unclear, which is unacceptable. How can residents understand exactly what is being proposed and why, when the council planners themselves appear confused on what is the right site, when they continue to recommend what is now an undetermined site, and continue to place great importance on the provision of affordable housing for young people in its new settlement plans, but still commit to building a new town at Green Hammerton where the enormous cost of getting gas to this area, upgrading the electricity supply, and carrying out major upgrades to the A59 means developers will need to build large, profitable houses and few genuinely affordable homes to make this viable?
In drawing up the Publication Draft Plan all the latest evidence (including additional material provided by the various site promoters) alongside wider consultation feedback has been taken into consideration and it has been concluded that the Green Hammerton option, when considered against the alternatives, offers the best possible place making solution in respect of a new settlement. The reasons for this are set out in the New Settlement Background Paper (Appendix 3) to the report being considered this evening.
Draft Policy DM4: Green Hammerton/Cattal Broad Location for Growth being recommended for inclusion in the Publication Draft Local Plan sets out that the final boundary will be settled upon through the preparation of an additional development planning document that will be produced in consultation with key stakeholders and the local community and will include a concept plan and place making parameters. The policy goes on to make clear that an appropriate mix of house types, sizes and tenures that achieves a balanced and inclusive community will be required. The issues raised in the question around infrastructure provision will be considered further through the preparation of the subsequent development planning document.
3. Question from Chris Eaton, Chair of the Keep Kirk Hammerton Green Action Group
If there must be a new settlement (and we do not accept at all that this is needed, especially in light of the new government calculations which almost halve the Council’s future housing growth targets), then why is the Council rejecting the site at Flaxby? This makes no sense, when….
• Flaxby is a brown field site versus Green Hammerton which is a prime agricultural green field site, and so should be the preferred site.
• Flaxby is directly opposite the recently announced Flaxby Business Park intended to create 3000 jobs, and in that respect is considerably more sustainable than the Green Hammerton site.
• Flaxby is much closer to Knaresborough, a town in need of economic regeneration. Given that proximity, it is much more likely that Flaxby residents will shop in Knaresborough, than Green Hammerton residents.
• Flaxby is a low-level site and sheltered by trees whereas Green Hammerton is on a prominent, visible Hill location.
• The main services needed for a new settlement such as gas and a suitable electrical supply are already at Flaxby but not at Green Hammerton.
• The Great Hammerton proposal in the consultation is bisected by the A59, which would need to be relocated, perhaps costing as much as £20 million whereas Flaxby already has a newly constructed £4 million roundabout and dual lane connection to the A1(M).
• Flaxby does not impinge on a conservation area. Great Hammerton heavily impacts three conservation areas, three ancient, historic villages and upwards of 2,000 people living in the locality.
• And whilst the rail link is a red herring to the location of a new settlement, especially now that there appears to be no plans to upgrade the line to dual track, the rail link passes by both Green Hammerton and Flaxby so on balance should not favour one site or the other.
If this proposal is being assessed properly on planning, and not political, grounds, then surely the Council must accept that Flaxby is a far more suitable location than Green Hammerton?
The New Settlement Background Paper (Appendix 3) to this evening’s report sets out the key reasons for the selection of the Green Hammerton option over the other options considered. These include:
• The area has direct and convenient access to the Leeds Harrogate York rail corridor providing opportunities for sustainable travel via two operational rail stations. The scale of development would support the improvement and enhancement of existing rail facilities and services, realising substantial positive environmental, social and economic benefits.
• The area is also located with convenient access onto the A59 for local bus services as well as providing accessibility to the highways network. It is sufficiently far enough away from the A1(M) to not suffer from noise or disturbance from that corridor.
• The area provides greater scope to deliver funding for infrastructure and wider planning obligations to support the creation of a quality place.
• A large area of land has been promoted for development providing scope to define the best possible site boundary and inclusion of necessary infrastructure through future comprehensive master planning.
• The site is located close to existing village settlements which provide some local services. These could assist in the very early phases of development to provide for day to day needs of new residents (albeit over time the new settlement will be expected to address its needs through the provision of a comprehensive range of new services and facilities).
4. Question from Grant Blakemore, Hampsthwaite
As there are no other options being given to Councillors other than to accept or reject the local plan we would suggest that there is a third option. Will Councillors delay the adoption of the local plan to ensure that the proposed housing figures align with the emerging Government policy in the white paper of a reduced figure for Harrogate?
• The Local Plan does not recognise any option other than to adopt or reject the Local Plan. It states that a rejection of the plan “would mean that the council would not be able to demonstrate that it had an up to date development plan; reducing the ability of the council to manage future development in the district.”
• There is a third option and that is to delay the adoption of the local plan so that the proposed housing figures and economic uplift could be re examined to ensure that they align with the emerging government policy outlined in the white paper and due to be published on 31st March 2018.
• During this limited period (i.e. December 2017 – March 2018) the Council could use the government’s lower housing assessment for Harrogate to justify any planning decisions, arguing that according to the Governments assessed figure of 395 houses per year it can now prove a 5 year supply of housing. The proposed Harrogate Council figure of 669 leaves the council continuously struggling to reach the 5year supply figure.
• Residents would respond very positively to this reasoned argument rather than feeling under siege with the increased housing need that the council is relentlessly pursuing.
The Government requires that Local Authorities put Local Plans in place in a timely manner. Introducing delay into the process at this stage runs the risk of the Government using its powers of intervention in order to progress the plan.
The Government’s proposals are only at the consultation stage and as yet we do not know how the Government may change these in response to consultation responses. The consultation document is clear that the figures set out in it are a minimum and should be treated as a baseline rather than an absolute figure. Our baseline figure of 419, is so close to the proposed figure (395) and our approach to economic factors is supported by the Government consultation proposals, on this basis we are proceeding as scheduled with our Local Plan.
The Local Plan is being prepared to respond to the needs of this District and in order to tackle some of the key challenges facing this district, like tackling the lack of affordable housing, making sure that local businesses can grow, as well as protecting the high quality natural and built environment it is important that the council continues to make progress and to submit the Draft Local Plan for Examination.
The Local Plan is planning to meet the 669 figure and on adoption the Council will have in excess of a 5 year supply of land.
5. Question from Dr Michael Clarke, Harrogate
Housing requirement numbers: – in respect of the present local plan timetable, what is the likelihood that the council will have to base its submission on the government’s standardised assessment of housing need and what affect will that have on the housing requirement?
• Since the demise of the previous Plan (2014) there have been several assessments of housing need varying from 390 to 1,000 per annum. Why should the most recent (669) be more reliable?
• We are seeking confirmation that Government draft standard assessment (395 per annum) includes for “average” economic growth.
• Specific evidence is needed from HBC if applying uplift for substantial economic growth.
• The draft government paper says use the standardised method if plan submitted for examination after 31 March 2018 (note: unless publication of Revised Framework is after that date)
The Government have consulted on a standard methodology for calculating housing need. We won’t know for certain what that impact will be until we know the outcome of the consultation, which is expected in spring 2018.
The Government have indicated that, once the methodology is finalised, it should be used unless the plan is submitted for examination on or before 31 March 2018, or before the revised Framework is published (whichever is later). The Harrogate District Local Plan is scheduled to be submitted in summer 2018 so, subject to the revised Framework being in place, the standard methodology will apply.
The housing need figure for Harrogate suggested alongside the consultation is 395 homes per year and this takes into account demographic need and an uplift for affordability based on market conditions. The number does not take into account any economic factors such as local job growth. It is clear in the document that the figure is a minimum and should be treated as a baseline rather than an absolute figure.
Although the proposed methodology itself is silent on economic factors, this is dealt with elsewhere in the document. Paragraph 46 in particular strongly supports local authorities to meet employment growth with additional housing. The need for a strong local economy is also a key priority for this Council.
Not taking into account economic growth our current figure is 419 and when an uplift for economic growth based on locally gathered evidence (the Housing and Economic Development Needs Assessment) is applied we reach 669. Because our baseline figure, 419, is so close to the proposed figure and our approach to economic factors is supported by the proposals we are proceeding as scheduled with our Local Plan.
6. Question from Councillor Mary Hopkins, North Rigton Parish Council
Traffic:-will traffic congestion be better or worse as a result of the Local Plan?
• The scale of impact of extra dwellings will be huge. 16,000 houses will generate about 12,000 extra vehicle trips in the peak hour. Where is the extra road space and/or public transport capacity to handle this?
• To the west of Harrogate 4,000 extra dwellings will generate around 3,200 trips in the peak hour of which about 2,800 will be by car.
• Existing peak hour flow on Otley Road = 1100 vehicles (two way) – already key junctions are over capacity which existing traffic surveys bear out.
• The recently announced NYCC Otley Road improvement scheme will only add marginally to junction capacity.
• Burn Bridge and Pannal are already significant pinch points, what will the situation look like when traffic from an extra 4,000 plus houses is trying to access the A61?
• We suspect that significant numbers will be attracted to use minor roads, country lanes and through country villages so as to avoid bottlenecks. This is already clearly apparent with regard to both North Rigton and Beckwithshaw where rural roads and lanes are being clogged up by motorists often leading to inconvenience for local residents.
• Local HBC and NYCC Councillors agree that the scope of improvement to traffic flows on Otley Road is limited and that further housing development in the area can only make matters worse.
The trip rates for housing development are outlined in Appendix B of the Harrogate District Transport Model: Local Plan Testing Phase 2 report which is published on the Harrogate Borough Council website. These were agreed with Highways England and North Yorkshire County Council as being fit for purpose prior to undertaking highway modelling work. 16,000 dwellings would be anticipated to generate around 9300 vehicle trips in the peak hour and 4,000 dwellings would generate around 2300. The vehicle generation figures from North Rigton Parish Council would therefore be an over-estimate based upon the values established by HBC.
The NYCC National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) improvements to Otley Road are likely to provide significant benefits to congestion, particularly at the Harlow Moor Road/Otley Road junction but further work is required to understand the exact scale of benefit once the design stage of the work has been completed.
A further component of the NPIF work is to improve the quality of the roads connecting West Harrogate with the A61 and developers will be required to assess the implications on Pannal and Burn Bridge as part of their detailed traffic assessments when planning applications are submitted. In terms of access onto the A61 the junction at Station Road Pannal is being considered as part of the Local Plan cumulative traffic impacts and a roundabout at the end of Burn Bridge Lane is included as part of the NPIF work.
Otley Road carries less traffic than other comparable routes into Harrogate and the highway modelling work undertaken by HBC suggests that the flows can be accommodated with amendment to specific junctions.
7. Question from Mr Rene Dziabas, Harlow and Pannal Ash Residents Association
Infrastructure and sustainability:-in light of the many references to sustainability thoughout the local plan and given that the local plan envisages housing and commercial development on the west side of Harrogate equivalent to
the building of a new settlement, what investment is being planned to significantly upgrade infrastructure and services and what benefits will the community to the west of Harrogate expect to see?
• Housing development equivalent in size to a settlement is being proposed for the western arc of Harrogate, the area least able to cope with it.
• Numbers that are too high and developments that are in the wrong place will lead to real harm through over development and will inevitably be challenged at examination.
• The Council’s plan to build where infrastructure is inadequate should be reappraised, radical and imaginative thinking in terms of out of town settlements with bespoke communication links should be considered.
• When viewing proposed sites within the plan it is difficult not to believe that inclusion has been based solely on the fact that that the relevant land was available and that the impact of inadequate infrastructure locally hasn’t been thought through.
Urban extensions to the west of Harrogate are proposed in the Local Plan. Policy TI4 makes clear that the council will work with infrastructure and service providers and developers to deliver infrastructure and services to support development. In bringing forward proposals for the Local Plan the Council has engaged with infrastructure and service providers in drawing up its Infrastructure Capacity Study, that identifies areas where improvements are required.
Furthermore developers will be expected to make reasonable on-site and/or off-site provision (and or contributions) towards infrastructure. For sites of the scale being proposed to the west of Harrogate this will include highway improvements, community facilities including new school provision, public transport enhancement, cycling and pedestrian links.
8. Question from Councillor Dave Oswin, Pannal and Burn Bridge Parish Council
SLA’s:- How much special landscape area will be lost as a result of the housing developments proposed in the Local Plan and what steps are envisaged to replace it?
• The desecration of some SLA’s is envisaged within the Local Plan while at the same time much less appealing areas within the Green Belt have been ignored. Is now the time for HBC to take part in a partial or full examination of the Green Belt?
• Local Plan sites take up over 100 Hectares of SLA in addition to the area already lost to approved developments adjacent to Otley Road (about 45 Hectares)
• Have all brown field sites been examined with regard to suitability for housing?
Special Landscape Areas (SLAs) have been identified on the policies map through policy NE4. These are areas of land that are valued locally for their high quality landscape and their importance to the settings of Harrogate, Knaresborough and Ripon. Designation of land as SLA does not, however, preclude development. Policy NE4 is clear that within these areas the impact of development proposals will be carefully considered and most meet certain criteria.
In order to deliver new development in sustainable locations there is a need to identify sites within SLA. In drawing this conclusion all known available land has been assessed, including brownfield land. In assessing available land for housing it has been concluded that sufficient land can be identified in locations outside the Green Belt, and which align with the draft Local Plan growth strategy, to accommodate the Local Plan requirement, therefore a Green Belt review has not been required. This approach is in line with national planning policy.