Report favours 1,800 homes plan at Airfield site
A MAJOR new report is urging Harborough District Council to give the go-ahead for up to 1,800 homes on land north-west of the town –despite public opposition to the plans during a consultation.
The report says the council can meet the majority of its Government-set housing targets over the next 20 years by allowing large-scale development at the site.
If given the go-ahead, it would see between 1,500 and 1,800 homes built in a so-called Strategic Development Area stretching from Airfield Farm off the old A6 to the top of Lubenham Hill.
But the news has sparked anger in some quarters, with council planners accused of ignoring the findings of a public consultation which came out in favour of an alternative plan for only 1,000 homes.
Opposition Lib Dem councillors described the proposal as ‘a disaster’ and urged the council’s Conservative-run executive committee to reject the recommendations of the report when it comes before them at a meeting on Wednesday.
The site was identified in principle as suitable for development in Harborough Council’s Core Strategy planning document, finalised last year.
But a Strategic Development Area Masterplan is being put together to provide a more detailed plan of exactly where and how many homes should be built.
A consultation held in the summer asked people to choose between four development options.
Option A was for 1,000 homes to the north of the site, Option B for 1,700 homes on land stretching from the old A6 to Lubenham Hill and options C and D for 1,800 or 1,500 homes, respectively, in the same area.
This latest report recommends a combination of options B,C and D. It would see 1,000 homes built in the next ten years, with the remaining 500 to 800 built in the following decade to 2031.
The report admits the public were in favour of Option A, but reveals there were only 187 responses – less than one per cent of the town’s population.
However a spokesman for residents’ group MHRAID (Market Harborough Residents Against Inappropriate Development) said: “The community has voted overwhelmingly for the ‘least bad’ possibility but apparently are going to be ignored. The council has paid nothing but lip-service to the community.”
Lib Dem group leader Phil Knowles said: “If there has to be development it should be the smaller option, as this at least offers the possibility of the current infrastructure being able to cope and any expansion to be positive in its contribution.”
Council deputy leader Blake Pain said he would represent the interests of his Lubenham constituents at Wednesday’s meeting and added: “The Lib Dems accepted the principles of the Core Strategy. It’s too late in the day to start complaining. We have to play the cards we’ve been dealt. The plan will protect us from the effects of scattergun development.”
The report states a package of traffic improvement measures would be needed, including making St Mary’s Road one-way eastbound between The Square and Kettering Road and imposing a 7.5 ton weight limit on Welland Park Road.
Other recommendations made by Leicestershire County council’s Highways department include reducing the number of long-stay parking places in the town centre by 25 per cent.
Bus services would be also increased and improvements made to walking and cycling networks.
A link road from the old A6 to the A4304 Lutterworth Road could be built and a traffic management scheme set up in Great Bowden.
The Mail opened the issue to debate on our Facebook page.
Nick Mullinger said: “This is ridiculous. I moved here last year (to an existing period property I might add, not one of the new builds) because of the serenity of the town, but it seems the council and town planners are hell bent on destroying it.”
Steven Tuck added: “1,800 houses = about 3,000 more cars!! Can Harborough really cope with even more traffic? It’s a nightmare as it is. Wake up Harborough Council.”
Carys Peet said: “There are way too many new builds lying empty as it is surely?”
However not everyone was against the idea. Simon Allen and Ben Pitcher said the development would provide construction jobs.
And Dave Argo added: “Build more houses then they will not be able to close the hospital, maybe get a picture house, bowling alley and something for the youngsters to do.”
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Weather for Market Harborough
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 11 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: North