Residents’ outrage meets Birstwith development go ahead

David Jobling and fellow Birstwith residents who are objecting to the development. Picture : Adrian Murray. (1404304AM1)
David Jobling and fellow Birstwith residents who are objecting to the development. Picture : Adrian Murray. (1404304AM1)

Outrage has met the decision by Harrogate Borough Council planning committee permitting a development in Birstwith.

The application to build 27 homes at West House Farm, put forward by David Holmes Properties Ltd, will go ahead despite 94 letters of objection from residents.

Though councillors objected to the lack of public consultation and raised concerns at the site’s alleged vulnerability to flooding, the plans went through at three votes for, one against, and 11 abstentions.

Dr David Jobling, representing 50 Birstwith residents, said: “We have had 90 responses to the plan and they are completely wiped out now.

“We get a lot of surface water flooding from this site during heavy rain and we are concerned that this won’t be dealt with satisfactorily.

“My main concern now is the fact that there were 11 abstentions and four votes cast. You expect your councillors to make a decision.”

Other concerns include the site’s visibility in the Lower Nidderdale landscape, the lack of a pavement to the village centre, and an alternative site that many residents believe is better located.

Lower Nidderdale Coun Christine Hill (Con) said: “It is rather sad that there are so many objections because the village has never objected to building, but it is the place of the building.

“In the village there is a school and a Post Office and a brilliant shop. Isn’t that the obvious place to centralise things? And the alternative site is pretty much on the level, rather than half a mile up the hillside where there is high drainage and other problems.

“David Holmes has built a lot in Birstwith and I make no criticism of the houses, but the fact is the land is wrong.”

Mr Holmes said the issue of flooding had been addressed by Yorkshire Water and the Harrogate drainage department, and that no other site was available.

“This application is the culmination of five years work and it has been very thorough,” he said.

“The development will be very high quality and it will be sympathetic to the village. The site is not on a floodplain and the drainage is in accordance with sustainable urban drainage systems. There are just no issues with it.”

The overriding concern for many councillors, however, was the effect of the government’s five year housing supply policy on local planning. One consequence is that the Harrogate district, with its housing shortfall of 220 dwellings, must approve more applications, leading to the widespread feeling that their hands are tied.

Bilton Coun Val Rodgers (Lib Dem) voted against the application. She said: “The officers have a job to appraise us with the facts and obviously we have got to base our judgement on that, but our local development plan is being looked at and my feeling was that we should be able to wait for that.

“I am not criticising the officers. Their position is very hard, as is the council’s. We are 220 houses short for the five year plan, but I am concerned that if the suggested drainage didn’t work it might affect properties further down from the site.”

Mashamshire Coun Nigel Simms (Con) said: “We have no option but to approve this. It is unfortunate that there is so much objection in Birstwith but there is nothing we can do. We have to just grin and bear it like everybody else.”