By Pip Land
Concerns about retaining the special qualities of the landscape around Semerwater were raised at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s planning committee meeting on Tuesday, July 11.
This was one of the reasons why the members did not accept the planning officer’s recommendation that approval should be given for converting a barn at East Hill Top, Countersett, into a one-bedroom dwelling for local occupancy or short-term holiday lets.
The officer had argued that the barn was redundant and was within a loose group of buildings as it was near a smaller outbuilding and a barn which was being used as a residential workshop. She stated that it was almost unnoticeable from Semerwater and converting it would secure its future as a heritage asset.
She explained that the whole of the north-eastern wall of the two-storey barn would need to be re-built along with the corner of the south-eastern elevation, and the roof would be replaced. This, however, did not constitute replacing the building, she added.
Some members queried how the application fitted with the Authority’s new policy of allowing roadside barns to be converted and pointed out that the barn was still in agricultural use. The head of development management, Richard Graham, said that the policy included barns that were in groups of building and did not require a barn to be redundant.
Richmondshire district councillor Yvonne Peacock was one of the members who maintained that the barn could be seen from Semerwater and, as a local parish councillor, said that residents in Countersett often raised concerns about light pollution.
One of those residents, Merrie Ashton, told the committee: “Semerwater is such an extraordinary national asset which should be protected and promoted. The location is dramatic and unspoilt. It needs very, very careful management. The light from this building would be a problem for wildlife.
“There is a species of bat – the long-eared bat – which is roosting in the barn, which is highly susceptible to light. Light pollution is detrimental to their feeding and breeding. Conversion from an agricultural building to a domestic building would most likely result in the roost being abandoned.”
She added that even if the height of the dry stone walls around the site was raised, it was likely that any cars parked by the barn would be visible from Semerwater.
Besides its concerns about the height of the walls and the groundworks required, the parish council also noted that the barn was quite a distance from Countersett.
The majority of the committee voted to refuse the application but, as that was against the recommendation of the planning officer, the decision was referred back to the August meeting.
ARC News Service