Custodians of the Yorkshire Dales have voted to overturn two of their own decisions aimed at conserving the national park’s heritage after hearing they could inadvertently undermine the conservation of the area’s 6,000 traditional stone barns.
A meeting of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority saw its planning committee divided over the merits of converting two barns into homes, near Dent and near West Burton, despite having approved the proposals last year .
Both schemes had been given the green light partly on the basis the developments would improve the condition of the heritage features, which without such a use would otherwise continue to decay and eventually fall down.
While members had also supported the proposals as they could provide much-needed additional housing in the park, the meeting was told the authority’s policy meant the barn conversions could instead be used for short-term holiday lets.
The meeting heard it was “impossible” for some young people to be able to afford to continue living in the national park and some members argue the area’s communities and economy should be paramount.
As last year’s decisions were against the recommendations of planning officers and went against the authority’s conservation policies both schemes were referred back to the planning committee for further consideration.
The meeting was told the authority’s policy had been shaped over many years to allow for the residential conversion of traditional barns in roadside locations, to find new economic uses for traditional barns so that they are maintained in the landscape.
However, members heard if approved both schemes could set precedents, harming a strategy which has seen permission granted for hundreds of barn conversions while conserving the character and quality of the landscape.
Officers warned permitting the West Burton scheme “would significantly compromise the policy approach to the conversion of traditional buildings by allowing a conversion that does not meet any of the locational requirements”.
They said as the Dent proposal needed “substantial demolition” and rebuilding the claim it represents a conversion was “likely to be used throughout the national park to justify proposals for allowing the rebuilding of ruinous buildings…”.
The meeting heard approval of the Dent proposal would remove an incentive to maintain such buildings in good condition, and encourage developers to demolish such structures where demolition and rebuilding is a cheaper alternative to reconstruction and conservation.
Challenging fellow members to put people before conservation, Upper Dales councillor Yvonne Peacock said: “Let’s prove that we have got the ability to have a young family come in and live and work in the Dales.”
However, the authority’s member champion for development management, Jim Munday said since its policy on barn conversions was relaxed in October 2015, more than 300 schemes had been approved and only about 20 rejected.
He said: “It has been very positive as a conservation policy.”