Scores of residents turned out yesterday to protest over plans for a large-scale housing development on Richmond pastureland.

The proposals for 32 houses at the top of Westfields and Hurgill Road have attracted a huge amount of community opposition, with more than 2,000 people signing a petition against the development and 265 further letters of objection.

North Yorkshire Council's planning committee is due to decide on the plans next Thursday, and ahead of the meeting, a site visit was held for councillors yesterday morning.
Dozens of residents, some with placards, attended to demonstrate the strength of feeling.

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Carolyn Allgood, who has lived in Richmond for 41 years, said: "The Coast to Coast path comes through here. People come to Richmond because it is a beautiful place and this development will be horrendous. It will really damage the wildlife we have here."

Kim Stanford added: "This road is already really dangerous without adding more cars to this road.

"This is a beauty spot. Imagine this but with towering three storey buildings. When we built our house around the corner we had to follow very strict specifications. This will devastate this side of town."

Darlington and Stockton Times: The planning committee on their site inspection
The application has been put forward by Zetland Estates Ltd, the family business venture of the 4th Marquess of Zetland, based at Aske Hall, near Richmond.

It says the development has high quality design, and would help to meet local housing demand.
But, speaking at yesterday's protest, Dr Timothy Pearson said: "This is an unreasonable and unsafe development.

Building 32 modern houses in a traditional rural setting does not make sense. All the people here today are showing their disapproval of the plans."

The application will be one of the first to be heard by the recently formed North Yorkshire Council ahead of imminent legislation to give communities a meaningful say over new development in their area.

Championed by Rishi Sunak’s government, the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is currently being considered by the House of Lords and seeks to give local communities "more control over what is built, where it is built, and what it looks like", with additional safeguards to protect the country’s heritage.

Darlington and Stockton Times: The proposed site of 32 houses
Objections have centred on the fact that the site lies outside of Richmond’s current planning boundary and builds on attractive greenfield meadowland that pushes up against the Coast to Coast walking path as it approaches Richmond from the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

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It also runs alongside the medieval pastureland of Westfields – one of the town’s most popular and culturally significant open spaces. Other concerns cite the adverse impact upon biodiversity.

Ian Hibbert, a spokesperson for a community group that has formed to oppose the development, said: “This is an important test case to see if the newly formed North Yorkshire Council is listening to the wishes of the community.

"This application flies in the face of planning policy and there are many sound reasons to refuse the application but community opinion should also be taken into account if impending government legislation is to be taken seriously. We have an important role to play in the future of our town: what it looks like, what it values and how we live in it.”

Matt Ball Architecture has worked on behalf of Zetland Estates Ltd to bring forward the development. In a planning statement, the firm says: “We understand there are tensions and divides regarding the site; it’s easy to understand that disrupting the status quo is not always viewed favourably. Zetland Estates are very keen to promote high-quality architecture and design."

Amongst the objectors is Baroness Angela Harris of Richmond, who describes the development as "creeping urbanisation".

Read more: Merits of Richmond housing ‘outweigh negatives’ – planners

She said: “The site is unsuitable for the numbers of homes involved and constitutes overdevelopment. It is also outside the stated building boundaries of the town, is on a raised area which can be seen from numerous places around the town and is detrimental to an historic area of natural beauty.”

Richmond Town Council describes the plan as having “no merit”.

The North Yorkshire Council planning committee is due to vote upon the proposal on Thursday, September 14 at a meeting held at 10am at Mercury House in Richmond.