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Council hit with complaint over 'chaotic and confusing' approval of 200 homes at former police base

Harrogate Council has been hit with a complaint over its approval of controversial plans for up to 200 homes at a former police base.

Harrogate Borough Council has been hit with a formal complaint over its approval of controversial plans for up to 200 homes at a former police training base. Harlow and Pannal Ash Residents’ Association together with Pannal and Burn Bridge Parish Council have lodged the complaint after the council’s planning committee granted approval during a three-hour meeting described as “chaotic and confusing”. Councillors had initially rejected a recommendation of approval last Tuesday before claiming they had been “bullied” into giving the go-ahead by legal “threats” from the applicant Homes England. A spokesperson for the residents’ association said the decision reflected “sheer fatigue” from councillors. The spokesperson said:

“In our opinion, the committee were unduly influenced by the threat of the costs, which is not a material planning consideration and which one member described as blackmail. “We have asked the council’s chief executive to comment on the validity of the decision reached.”
David Oswin, deputy chair of the parish council, also described the decision for the Yew Tree Lane site in Pannal Ash as “shambolic” and “embarrassing”. He said:
“Coupled with threats of a legal challenge by the developer and misinformation from the officers, councillors were frankly bullied and bamboozled into reversing a decision that potentially sets a dangerous precedent for those with the deepest pockets to exploit.”
It was revealed during the meeting that Homes England, the government’s housing agency, had written to the council claiming it acted “unlawfully” when councillors last June delayed a decision to allow time for work on the West Harrogate Parameters Plan. This plan is a long-delayed document which sets out the infrastructure needs for the up to 4,000 new homes set to be built in the west of the district. It was due to be completed last year but will now not be published in draft form until at least February 2022. Speaking at last week’s meeting, an official for Homes England said that while it would be an “absolute last resort” for the body to launch an appeal against the council for any further delays, it was a route it was willing to take. Senior planning manager David Stephenson said:
“If this is deferred then unfortunately we will have very little options going forward.”
Harrogate Borough Council and Homes England have both been contacted for further comments. By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter Read more local stories from Your Harrogate here.

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