Harrogate residents fighting plans for a Starbucks drive-thru are getting ready to do battle next week when a second appeal into the rejected proposals gets underway.
A government planning inspector will on Tuesday open a hearing into the controversial plans for the former 1st Dental surgery on Wetherby Road.
The plans have already been refused three times over concerns about highway safety, air quality and the impact of nearby residents.
Retail firm Euro Garages is behind the scheme and will feel it now has its best chance yet of winning approval after Harrogate Borough Council last month withdrew an objection and chose not to contest the appeal, instead leaving it in the hands of residents.
Headed up by ward councillor Pat Marsh, locals are now preparing to take their fight to the June 15 hearing, which is expected to return a decision before the end of the month.
Cllr Marsh said:
“We are so committed to making sure the right decision is made by the inspector. This is a site that has been refused all the way down the line, including a decision from a previous inspector, so our case must have some validity.
“What we are talking about is a business which would only attract more cars to an already busy area. The name drive-thru is a good clue and it will mean cars upon cars upon cars.
“The developers will have all kinds of legal people to try to knock us down. We are not legal people, we are just normal residents who appreciate where they live and want to stop this inappropriate development in an inappropriate area.
“Residents have made a really strong case to fight this appeal and I will be there right behind them.”
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After the plans were first refused by the council in 2017, a key moment came a year later when a first appeal was dismissed by an inspector on the grounds that the site would cause “unacceptable” harm to nearby residents.
Euro Garages then submitted a revised scheme after what they said was “very careful consideration” of the inspector’s ruling, with a reduction in the size of the proposed building and relocated parking.
These latest plans were still rejected by the council in 2019, and are what will be up for debate at next week’s appeal.
‘Angry and upset’
The reason for the council not wanting to contest is because it previously made a recommendation in support of the plans, which it believes would have hindered an argument against.
It also said it was unable to find lawyers willing to fight the appeal for them.
Cllr Pat Marsh, who is also leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat party, said she was “angered” by this decision but vowed to fight on.
“I still feel angry and upset because when we previously voted for refusal, and even though it was contrary to officer recommendation, we had sound planning reasons.
“At the time, a legal officer for the council never stood up to question this. Clearly what we had done was seen to be acceptable and we thought the council were on our side.”
A council spokesman previously said not contesting the appeal “hasn’t been an easy decision to make” but was “the best way forward in this instance.”
“In this case, the officer recommendation of approval was overturned by the planning committee and permission was refused, which has led to an appeal by the applicant.
“Following this recommendation, along with feedback from relevant consultees and comments made by an independent inspector – who considered a previous appeal at the site for a similar proposal – we believe the most sensible and cost-effective approach would be to not defend the appeal.”