A NEW town of 3,000 homes looks set to go ahead to the west of York after winning the backing of a planning inspector.

The inspector supported proposals in Harrogate Borough Council’s Local Plan to locate a new settlement on land in the Green Hammerton, Kirk Hammerton and Cattal area.

A report by inspector Richard Schofield says the plan is sound, subject to modifications, and the principle and broad location of the new settlement are also sound.

The final plan will be presented to cabinet and council in early March for a decision on formal adoption.

The decision has dismayed villagers, who have been campaigning for the past three years against the proposed location for the development, which is intended to help meet future housing demand across the Harrogate district.

Chris Eaton, co-chair of the Keep The Hammertons Green Action Group, which has led the campaign, said members were "hugely disappointed" the plan had received support from the inspector.

“Whilst residents of any area chosen for this scale of development would be unhappy, we’ve always presented strong and valid reasons why Harrogate Borough Council made the wrong choice in selecting Green Hammerton and Cattal for a new settlement,” he said.

“The voices of more than 2,000 local village residents have also been completely ignored.

“This decision needlessly condemns acres of rich, highly productive farming land to a concrete future, at a time when there is growing demand for locally grown food and better care of our environment is crucial.

"Ultimately the inspector has taken the path of least resistance and ignored almost everything he’s heard from residents.”

The group had argued that Flaxby Park, a disused golf course closer to Knaresborough and Harrogate, would have been a better location for the new settlement, causing far less disruption and being very close to a large employment site, offering walking and cycling to work opportunities.

Mr Eaton added that the report had been clear that the implications of a new settlement for nearby villages needed to be addressed very carefully "and that a new settlement should be just that, rather than being merely an extension of an extant settlement".

He said: “It is important that Harrogate Borough Council acknowledge this rather than interpreting it how they want and have previously illustrated.”

Cllr Rebecca Burnett, cabinet member for planning, said an adopted Local Plan would provide certainty to development, providing homes, jobs and infrastructure, and would also reduce unplanned speculative development and ensure the district’s green spaces, built heritage and community facilities were protected.