Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce News

Is Flaxby the obvious Location

17 Sep 2019 by Steve Wright - Candid PR

The development company behind plans for Flaxby Park insists that critical points on Harrogate Borough Council’s latest Sustainability Appraisal swing the ‘finely balanced decision’ to build a major new settlement around Green Hammerton, back in Flaxby’s favour.

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Flaxby Park Ltd plans to transform Flaxby’s disused golf course into a new sustainable village community with a new village centre, 2,750 high quality homes, a retirement village, two primary schools, a GP surgery, sports facilities and a park and ride railway station. More than 50% of the site will consist of green open space. However, in its draft Local Plan, Harrogate Borough Council again favoured rerouting the A59 and building thousands of homes around Green Hammerton.

Earlier this year, independent government inspector Richard Schofield, who is tasked with examining the council’s proposals, asked Harrogate Borough Council to review its choice of locations for a new settlement. At the time, the Council's Principle Planning Policy Manager, Tracey Rathmell, publicly said that doing this work ‘won’t change anything and the outcome will remain the same’.

Flaxby Park’s Chief Executive, Chris Musgrave, believes this meant Harrogate Borough Council’s latest Sustainability Appraisal had a predetermined outcome. He also argues that Flaxby matches or beats Green Hammerton in a range of crucial areas including education, agricultural land, employment, infrastructure requirements and public transport facilities.

Chris Musgrave said: “We’ve always maintained the new Sustainability Appraisal should have been done independently and this was echoed by many Harrogate and Knaresborough residents, as well as local businesses and other organisations.

“However, the repeated requests were ignored and instead the Council set about verifying and justifying the work they did first time around. How can anyone believe it’s been done properly without it being done independently? The right thing to do now would be to put the plan back to the Examination In Public stage to allow all the evidence to be considered transparently.”

Chris continued: “We’ve worked hard to address all the key issues in the Sustainability Appraisal and support them with relevant evidence.

“The road infrastructure around Flaxby is already very good. Our site is right next to the A1, with a new roundabout onto the A59, and we’ve fully costed the improvements we’d need to make to the A1 junction and demonstrated they are deliverable.

“Compare this to re-routing the A59, having to dual large sections of the road and creating two new vehicular bridges over the rail track for the Hammerton site, which would cause untold disruption and hasn’t even been costed yet or investigations carried out into the land availability. It’s inevitable the cost of the works are likely to come at the expense of the site’s affordable housing allocation, and also require public subsidy. It’s difficult to believe anyone seriously thinks this is a better option.

“In addition, Flaxby has the major benefit of having numerous large-scale employers nearby including Morrisons, ilke Homes and Chippendale, as well as Flaxby Green Park, which is set to employ almost 3,000 people. Having employment located next to housing is a key sustainability requirement in planning terms and this was highlighted by Councillor Reeve–Burnett in her opening address at the public hearings in January, yet very little, if anything, is made of this in the assessment report to the Local Plan Inspector.”

Flaxby also feel little reference has been made to the previous land use and the benefits of building on a previously developed site.

Chris added: “Flaxby is not agricultural farmland and cannot be reused as agricultural land as the ground was re-engineered to create the former golf course and a large section of the site was used as a hard standing for the construction of Junction 47, which would be impossible to grow crops on. It also has derelict buildings onsite and has landscaped bunds in place to screen out noise from the adjacent motorway, accompanied by existing watercourses to accommodate development.

“The Hammerton location is currently active farmland and also has a horticultural nursery on the site.

“In terms of education, our plans include two new primary schools, with full support from the Diocese for new free schools, and supporting the expansion of local secondary schools.  Flaxby Park have also submitted representations from operators wishing to locate supporting community facilities onsite including retail, a retirement village, a hotel and a new GPs surgery.”

Chris confirmed “We would reopen Goldsborough Railway Station, which we now own, and create a much-needed park and ride facility for Harrogate, which will significantly reduce traffic on the A59 into Harrogate and undoubtably stimulate tourism and the Harrogate economy whilst servicing not only the proposed homes, but importantly the existing and proposed jobs at Flaxby. 

“Despite the Council now acknowledging Flaxby scores higher than Hammerton in the revised assessment on rail, bizarrely the report concludes Hammerton Broad Location is favoured and questions the surety of a station at Flaxby. This is despite letters of acceptance from the network operators and a fully costed viability appraisal submitted by Flaxby Park.

“Much is made on the existing Hammerton stations being ‘operational’ but no mention is made on the current capacity issues or the need to significantly upgrade these stations, with huge financial consequence. A Local Plan is there to proactively plan new growth and development in the coming years - a new park and ride station for Harrogate has been widely supported and Flaxby are providing the opportunity to deliver this.”

Finally, Chris added: “The Council has always maintained this was a finely balanced decision and with so many extra points now clearly going in Flaxby’s favour, it must surely change the decision. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a new settlement for the benefit of Harrogate, with new homes for local people and increasing footfall for local businesses, but Green Hammerton is closer to York, and that’s also likely to be where residents would spend their money.

“A new settlement at Flaxby is clearly more deliverable and the evidence supports this. Public consultation overwhelmingly supports the Flaxby location and during the draft Local Plan, and when it was published, Flaxby received double the support that Hammerton did. This was followed by more than 95% of people objecting to the Hammerton site in the additional consultation, with many stating support for Flaxby.

“We also held five well attended consultation events in Goldsborough, Knaresborough and Harrogate, which all revealed overwhelming support for Flaxby and opposition to Hammerton.

“A development at Flaxby will provide the much needed housing for Harrogate with the supporting facilities and infrastructure, the same cannot be said for a development at Hammerton.

“This revised assessment produced by the Council must now be put to a public hearing session to allow the merits of each new settlement sites to be directly compared and discussed in a public forum, something that has yet to happen.”

The consultation into Harrogate Borough’s Local Plan is underway and anyone wanting to share their comments must do so by 16:30 on 20th September 2019.

For further information and to view the planning application, visit www.flaxbypark.com or www.harrogate.gov.uk