Controversial Kirkbymoorside housing estate to go ahead despite protests

Gazette & Herald: Coun Sarah Ward, right, with  residents at the site of the proposed new housing estate in Kirkby-moorside Coun Sarah Ward, right, with residents at the site of the proposed new housing estate in Kirkby-moorside

KIRKBYMOORSIDE residents have spoken of their fury that a large housing development will go ahead on the edge of their town, despite widespread opposition.

The scheme for 260 new homes on the Westfields site near the town’s primary school was given the green light at a meeting of Ryedale District Council’s (RDC) planning committee last Wednesday, only two months after an almost identical scheme was refused by the same committee.

The Gladman development will see 210 houses, plus 50 extra-care apartments for older people built on fields around Kirkbymoorside Primary School, north of the A170 on Kirkdale Road.

The town’s mayor, Coun Chris Dowie, said she is furious with the decision, which flies in the face of town council pleas for the plans to be turned down as too big and outside Kirkbymoorside’s development limits, and because of its proximity to the school.

After the meeting she said: “I think it’s absolutely dreadful and I feel very let down by our elected representatives and the people who advise them.”

Council planning officials supported the scheme and told the committee that four matters which led them to reject the earlier application had all been dealt with. They included concerns there was not enough affordable housing or landscaping planned, or enough land set aside for expansion at the primary school; and worries over archaeology on the site.

Gladman had launched an appeal against the earlier refusal, and officers warned the planning committee that a hearing would be very costly to the council if it appeared to act unreasonably by refusing this later scheme.

Coun John Raper, committee chairman, said: “It’s accepted in principle for development on this site and the four items have been addressed. [To refuse] would be perverse and cost us a huge amount of money because we would be perceived to be unreasonable.”

Kirkbymoorside resident Mike Gray was elected by other objectors to speak on their behalf at the meeting. Dozens of residents wrote to the council to fight the plans, which are “totally, totally unpopular”, Mr Gray said.

He fears the new houses will become a commuter estate with no jobs available nearby and few links to the town centre.

“The only way people will be able to afford to buy those houses is by driving a long way to work,” he said.

Like Mr Gray, Kirkbymoorside district councillor Sarah Ward (Lib) is concerned the decision to allow this large development goes against RDC’s own local plan, due to be finalised this week, which says the town should host only small or medium-sized developments.

Coun Ward said: “It’s just so disappointing that the planning committee has gone against the local plan. To completely disregard that is dreadful.”

Kirkbymoorside’s other district councillor David Cussons (Cons) sits on the planning committee and originally spoke against the scheme, saying the houses would “stick out like a sore thumb” and should not be built on good farm land. But later he mistakenly voted against his own proposal to refuse the plans.

He said: “I pressed the wrong button, that’s all that went wrong and I would rather it hadn’t happened. I am disappointed really, I am sorry that’s what happened.

“At this meeting it seemed it had to be passed or the appeal would cost a lot of money,” he added.

Planning permission was approved by a narrow margin with six councillors abstaining, two voting to refuse and two to approve, meaning chairman Coun Raper cast his deciding vote to approve the plans.

Gladman confirmed it now plans to market the scheme to builders and developers and said it is unlikely work will start before the middle of 2014, but declined to comment any further.

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