THE leader of Hambleton District Council has urged residents to back controversial plans for one of the biggest housing developments the area has ever seen.
Coun Neville Huxtable is warning urgent action is needed to stop the lack of affordable housing reaching crisis point in the coming years.
The council leader was speaking out after the local authority came under a barrage of criticism for the Sowerby Gateway project to build more than 900 homes in the village on the outskirts of Thirsk.
Residents have claimed there has been a worrying lack of public consultation over the development, which is part of the council’s local development framework, saying it could cause Sowerby’s transport infrastructure to collapse.
Fears have also been raised by opponents about the lack of extra educational facilities for the hundreds of children the development will bring in.
But Coun Huxtable has defended the plans and urged residents to recognise the vital importance of building extra affordable accommodation in Hambleton, with at least 333 new homes needed a year up to 2016 to meet demand.
“We need more houses in Hambleton and across North Yorkshire, ” he said.
“If we don’t build these houses there will be huge problems.
“More young people will need to live with their parents and employment opportunities will also suffer.
“What we have is a huge scope of problems and we have to overcome it somehow.
“We had very little response to that consultation when it was launched.
“But since planning applications were lodged for the scheme we have been deluged with complaints from local people who said they knew nothing of these plans.
“It is frustrating that people didn’t come along. Had they attended events at the very beginning I’m sure we could have overcome the problems that they are coming up with at the moment.
“I share some of these concerns and I am quite sure that they are valid.
“I don’t think at this stage we have got the final answer yet.”
The Sowerby Gateway development would provide 920 homes, 40 per cent of which are affordable, a new seven-classroom primary school, employment opportunities and community facilities over the next 15 years.
Outline permission has already been granted for part of the scheme which was first mooted back in 2007 and alongside the proposed £200m North Northallerton development master-plan represents the biggest development ever to take place in the district.
More than 150 villagers attended a public meeting earlier this month over the proposals, voicing concerns about transport bottlenecks on the road into Sowerby and no extra secondary school provision being included in the scheme.