Council calls second local plan emergency meeting

tis  Harrogate Council building.  (140131M1b)
tis Harrogate Council building. (140131M1b)

Harrogate borough councillors will meet to discuss the future of the district’s local plan again next week.

The full council meeting which has been called for next Thursday (June 18) will be the second extraordinary meeting of the council in six weeks to discuss the local plan.

Harrogate Borough Council’s (HBC) local plan was left in tatters in April, after a government planning inspector blasted the proposed housing numbers as inadequate and criticised the council for using out of date research.

Last month councillors met to discuss the issue, and after a fraught meeting where Lib Dem councillors called for a vote of no confidence in former Cabinet member for planning Coun Alan Skidmore (Con, Ripon Spa) the council decided to ask the planning inspector for more time.

Newly-elected Cabinet Member for planning, Coun Michael Harrison (Con, Killinghall) said asking for more time was the right thing to do.

He said: “The council was reluctant to go straight to withdrawal without exploring our other options, which I think is the right thing as it is one of the biggest things that the council are having to deal with.”

However planning inspector, Phillip Ware had made it clear that suspending the examination of the council’s local plan development plan document is not an acceptable option.

In a letter to the council he asked: “Given the circumstances, I am unclear why you are not proposing to produce a new local plan.”

The council will be recommend to withdraw the local plan and start work on a new plan at the meeting on June 18.

In his first meeting as Cabinet Member for planning Coun Harrison will make a decision on appointing consultants to undertake the demographic analysis and strategic housing market assessments needed for a new local plan.

Although the information relating to this decision has been made exempt and is not publicly accessible, the Advertiser believes the consultancy fees could reach a five or six figure sum.

Coun Harrison said: “If we are going to withdraw the plan then I think the important thing is to look as housing requirements.”

He explained the proposed consultants would be cost effective and would allow the council to work with neighbouring local authorities easily to create a ‘legally sound’ plan.

Newly-elected council leader Coun Richard Cooper (Con, High Harrogate) said the local plan was one of the most important things HBC has dealt with in years.

He said: “We are in changing times, what I want to do is work with people, work with parishes and communities to look at solutions.

“Now we have the chance to shape the future of the Harrogate district while protecting what makes it special. This is an opportunity to bring forward ideas for the future of the district.”