A tourism trend in which glamping pods and lodges have replaced camping and caravan pitches across the Yorkshire Dales has sparked concerns that those on lower incomes could be priced out of staying in the national park.
The Association of Rural Communities has underlined fears recently repeatedly expressed by community leaders in the heart of the national park following a plan being unveiled to transform a touring caravan and tent pitch site beside a top tourist attraction with “a more seasonally resilient and high-quality form of outdoor accommodation”.
In Wensleydale alone, the last year has also seen glamping proposals at nearby West Witton, Askrigg and Hawes.
The Aysgarth Falls Hotel has submitted a planning application to the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority to site 15 lodges at the rear of the hotel as part of a £3m investment to create “a destination of distinction”, which will also include extending the hotel building.
In planning documents lodged with the authority, the hotel’s owners state they aim to add “a new layer to the visitor proposition and a further reason to visit, stay and spend within the local area”, creating 17 more jobs for local people.
The papers state replacing the site’s touring caravan and tent pitches would
extend visitation into the off-season, address the undersupply of rooms at the hotel and tap into new and growing markets.
The documents state: “Taken together, boosting capacity and extending the season, will bolster the viability of the business, preserving its status as an important source of support for other local businesses.
“To ensure its ongoing role in the local economy, it is vital that the existing business remains competitive and continues to evolve to meet the changing needs, expectations, and demographics of consumers.”
While the proposal has attracted support from some local businesses, such as Black Sheep Brewery, some residents and various groups are calling on the park authority to reject the scheme.
They have pointed how the national park had identified a trend for the replacement of camping and touring caravan pitches with static units in its Local Plan, which it said was leading to reduced choice and opportunities for visitors.
The Local Plan states the authority will “resist the further loss of any touring pitches where there is evidence that it would have a significant negative impact on the supply or choice available locally”.
Following a public meeting to discuss what it described as a “major development”, Aysgarth and District Parish Council highlighted how the site’s touring caravan and camping space “provides more affordable stays” in the area, which had already seen other caravan parks converted to lodges.
The parish council stated: “This application seeks to abolish this existing provision and replace it with a high-end hotel offering, which will clearly not be affordable to the many.”
The Association of Rural Communities said it disputed the applicants claim there would be sufficient camping and touring caravan and motorhome pitches if those at Aysgarth Falls Hotel were removed.
In an email to the authority it states: “This association does not accept that there would then be sufficient within easy reach of Aysgarth Falls, one of the honeypots of the Yorkshire Dales especially as in summer some haven’t been able to find a camping or touring caravan pitch near the falls.
“These visitors did not want to book in on sites at Buckden, Barden Moor or even beyond Hawes as they wanted to be able to pitch camp and walk to Aysgarth Falls and other places of interest nearby.”
In its objection, pressure group Friends of the Dales said despite some proposed landscaping efforts to try and minimise the impact of the development it was “inappropriate and detrimental to the area which is next to one of the major tourist spots in the Dales”.