National park residents are calling on planning bosses to rethink a proposal to reclassify Reeth as a large village rather than a small town.
Residents have appealed to the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority after its latest local plan consultation revealed a proposed hierarchy for settlements in the area, based on levels of services and size of settlement, that would see Reeth fall into the category of larger village.
Councillor Helen Guy, of Reeth Parish Council, said the proposal had generated a significant amount of concern in the area as it would leave Swaledale and Arkengarthdale without any recognised town or service centre.
She said: “It’s about having its importance of service to the community recognised.
“We have a rural enterprise centre, a business park, a fire station and we feel it vitally important that status is protected.
“It’s obviously something the local people feel quite passionately about. There’s going to be a lot of responses to this consultation submitted not just from people in Reeth, but further up the dale.
“There’s a pride that historically Reeth has been called a small town. We do have a market charter and have a market here every Friday. That elevates it above other places that are considered large villages.”
She said downgrading Reeth’s status could impact on future funding for the area.
Cllr Guy said: “Reeth is the capital of Swaledale and Arkengarthdale.
“People want to keep their capital. Reeth has all the community services, Reeth has all of those set out in the small town criteria except a secondary school, although it does have a Post Office with full banking services rather than a cashpoint.”
She said while other villages, such as Gayle and Hawes, had been grouped together in the proposed local plan to make them more substantial, Healaugh, Fremington and Grinton were all within half a mile of Reeth but had not been grouped together.
Swaledale and Arkengarthdale councillor Richard Good said he questioned the downgrading as Reeth had a primary school, Hudson House community information centre, industrial workshops, a doctors’ surgery and a selection of shops.
He said: “The proposed local plan implies that all services come from Leyburn or Richmond and these proposals would leave Swaledale as the only major dale without a recognised service centre.”
Peter Stockton, the authority’s head of sustainable development, said no decisions had yet been taken over Reeth’s status.
He said: “As the national park is bigger than it was for the last Local Plan we have a lot more settlements to consider and we have got to consider the knock-on implications for other settlements.
“Whether or not it is a town or a large village doesn’t make that much difference in planning terms.
“It certainly doesn’t affect any funding we have as an authority.
“We are encouraging people to put in sites for housing in both larger villages and towns.”
Mr Stockton said the authority would listen to residents views, but it would need to be able to defend to an inspector with evidence whatever was in the local plan, and if Reeth was inaccurately justified it could undermine other parts of the local plan.