COUNTY councillors are being urged today to lift a covenant on farmland at Green Hammerton which could block controversial plans for a massive new settlement.

A report to a North Yorkshire County Council’s executive meeting says the covenant relates to New Farm, part of the site which CEG wants to be allocated in Harrogate Borough Council’s Local Plan for a 2,700 home development dubbed Great Hammerton.

It said the land was originally part of the County Farms estate and sold by the authority to farmer Derek Pickles 14 years ago.

The report by Gary Fielding, corporate director strategic resources, said the covenant prevented the land being used for any purpose other than as a single private residence and prevented the owner erecting any buildings other than agricultural, equestrian, horticultural or ancillary.

If planning permission was granted within 30 years for any other use of the property, a ‘clawback’ would also apply, with the council receiving 70 per cent of the uplift in the land’s open market value.

The report said a request had been received from the landowner to vary the covenants to allow the land to be used for other than agricultural, equestrian or horticultural purposes and allow more than a single private residence to be constructed, to enable housing development. He also sought to amend the clawback arrangements to make the scheme viable.

Mr Fielding said that if the requested variations were approved by the executive and Great Hammerton proceeded, the council would receive a share of the proceeds from the disposal of the land.

“Officers have carried out their own assessment of the scheme and concur that the scheme is not viable without varying the covenant.”

He said the council had a statutory duty to achieve ‘best consideration’ in the context of land disposals, and he asked the executive to approve the variation of the covenants.

The move comes days after Harrogate council officers said they still wanted a massive new settlement to be located in the Green Hammerton area, despite furious protests by local residents - but in a wider area than the Great Hammerton site alone, with a rival site at Cattal, dubbed Maltkiln Village, to be examined as well.