A couple who bought land on one of the finest landscapes in the Yorkshire Dales after falling in love with its waterfalls have been told they cannot sensitively transform a traditional stone barn so tourists can enjoy the area.
A meeting of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s planning committee was told landowners Paul and Gillian Haworth wanted to bring a redundant isolated building, in a field close to the foot of the Buttertubs Pass road into Swaledale, back into use as a camping barn.
An agent for the couple said they had bought the land at Scarr House Force, between Thwaite and Muker, for its “stunning” scenery and had rented the fields to a local farmer.
However, the agent said in order to safeguard the barn’s future they thought it needed a new purpose, adding “what better purpose than to allow it to be used by others so they too can enjoy the surrounding area?”.
Planning officers said as camping barns were considered a “low intensity use” of such sites, the change of use from agricultural to tourist accommodation was acceptable in principle, particularly as external changes would be limited to unblocking a door, replacing a tin roof with a steeper pitched slate one and rebuilding a wall.
Inside the building the couple proposed to create “modest” off-grid facilities, including a compost toilet and a woodburner and a loft ladder leading to a sleeping platform on a mezzanine floor.
Members heard the agent underline that there would be no parking spaces near the barn as potential visitors would be all expected to arrive at the site on foot or by bike carrying with them “the bare essentials”, similar to a wild camping experience.
Swaledale councillor Richard Good said there would be a demand for the barn as many people did not want to carry tents when taking on challenges such as the Coast to Coast walk and that bed and breakfast accommodation could be expensive for those who did not wish to camp.
Other members highlighted how the park authority needed to encourage active travel to meet its climate change ambitions and that a network of low cost accommodation for active travel visitors was much needed in the area.
However, Mr Good and numerous other members said they shared serious concerns over the scheme’s impact on the landscape.
Long-serving authority member Robert Heseltine said despite the agent’s assurances, it would be impossible stopping visitors to the barn arriving by vehicles and yet there was nowhere for them to park.
He said changing the use of the barn would compromise “that iconic landscape – you can’t get much better than that, Swaledale”.
Mr Heseltine added he believed the proposal was intended to pave the way for further residential uses of the building, likening the application to “a sneck lifter”.
Member Yvonne Peacock, the county councillor for the area, added: “I have never seen a barn more out in the countryside than that.
“Every time you come over Buttertubs you can’t miss it. It’s going to be seen by visitors from all over the world, never mind the country.”
The authority’s member for development management, Jim Munday said: “It’s a very fine site. If ever I define Yorkshire Dales, Deepdale, Swaledale it would be the view coming in from Kisdon or Buttertubs Pass.”
Before members rejected the proposal they heard groups of people would want to use the barn it would be almost impossible for the authority to enforce the behaviour of unruly guests staying at the barn.