Warnings that green field sites could be under threat of housing development in Ryedale, were given during a long debate on a scheme by Methodist Homes Association (MHA) to build a big retirement village on the outskirts of Pickering at Ryedale House last week.
At the end of the 75 minute debate, members of Ryedale District Council’s planning committee agreed to give the controversial plan the green light after hearing that while there were objectors to the scheme, an almost equal number of local people had written supporting it.
Gary Housden, the senior planning officer with the council, said the 168 assisted living units of 90 care suites and 78 bungalows, at Crossgate Lane, Pickering, on the Malton to Pickering road, would be on a green field site.
But added: “We are deluding ourselves if we don’t think that we shall need such sites in green fields in the future.”
Councillors had previously held a site visit to see the area themselves and the potential impact on the landscape, and also been to Harrogate where MHA has a smaller development. The packed council chamber was told that the scheme was in line with the Ryedale Local Plan Strategy.
Cllr Joy Andrews, Pickering’s deputy mayor, said, the town already had empty property including flats and it did not need a complex such as that of the MHA which was, she claimed, six times bigger than the scheme at Harrogate, a town of more than 70,000 residents compared with Pickering’s 7,000.
Town Mayor, Cllr Sue Cowan, said: “This development is too big and will have a big visual impact on the approach to Pickering and put a strain on our services as well as create traffic problems.”
She added that Pickering and Ryedale already had a large elderly population and the MHA scheme would add to them. “The medical centre in the town is already working at, or above, capacity and faces having more patients with this development.”
However a spokeswoman for MHA said the scheme would transform the lives for many older people, especially as it would cater for those with dementia. There would be a signal crossing for traffic and the site, which has archaeological interest, had been approved by English Heritage.
Cllr Tommy Woodward said the scheme would not aid the regeneration of Pickering. “We need young people in the town.” The project would provide only 15 per cent affordable housing, whereas RDC had a policy of seeking 35 per cent in new developments.