A PUBLIC inquiry into rejected plans for a long-contested motorway service area on the A1(M) near Harrogate has got underway.

The probe, which is examining Harrogate Borough Council’s decision to turn down the proposals for land near Kirby Hill in 2019, formally launched on Tuesday and is expected to continue for just under two weeks.

It is the fourth time in 25 years that an inquiry has considered the plans which campaign group Kirby Hill RAMS (Residents Against Motorway Services) successfully fought at the previous inquiries in 1997, 2003 and 2010.

They have described the £40m service station as “socially and environmentally irresponsible” and argue it would cause substantial harm to the open countryside at Kirby Hill and to the economy of the nearby market town of Boroughbridge.

Speaking on the opening day of the inquiry, campaign group chairman Gareth Owens said: “The question that local people are asking is why are we even here again?

“The answer, sadly, is that this site has a recalcitrant promoter who despite a quarter of a century of refusal will not take no for an answer because they have no respect for the properly-taken decisions of the planning system.”

Harrogate Borough Council’s planning committee most recently rejected the proposals from Irish-firm Applegreen two years ago when councillors questioned the need for another service station in the area and flagged concerns over the loss of countryside.

At the inquiry on Tuesday, a lawyer representing Applegreen argued there was an “established” need for the development.

Rhodri Price Lewis QC said government policy now required services to be located no more than 28 miles apart and that the distance between existing sites at Wetherby services and Leeming Bar exceeded this.

“The need for a motorway service area on this stretch of the A1(M), in accordance with the policy of the government, is established,” he said.

“There is not another full motorway service area after Wetherby for some 60 miles at Durham. The site chosen by Applegreen is well placed to meet that need.”

The inquiry is also hearing an appeal from Moto Hospitality for a service station at junction 50 near Hutton Conyers which Harrogate Borough Council also refused in October last year.

Stephen Wale, a lawyer representing the council, urged the government planning inspector to dismiss both appeals.

Speaking about the Kirby Hill plans, Mr Wale said: “The proposed development would entail significant encroachment into open countryside.

“Aspects of the proposed scheme such as green roofs and planting would help to reduce the scheme’s prominence to some extent and provide some mitigation.

“But the landscape and visual harm from the urban appearance of the parking areas, overbridge, slip roads and elevated junctions, internal roads, lighting and staff access would remain, as would the loss of the best and most versatile agricultural land.”

He added: “There is no need for either of the appeal schemes.“There is an existing motorway service area at Wetherby. There is a motorway rest area at Leeming Bar, controlled by Moto, and development has begun there with respect to a planning permission granted for a motorway service area.”

A final decision on both appeals will be made by the government’s planning inspector David Rose.