Conservationists’ concerns for Richard III’s childhood home

Middleham Castle. Photo: George Hatton.

The historic setting of Richard III’s childhood home Middleham Castle could be spoilt if plans to build 55 homes on nearby pastures are given the go-ahead, conservation groups have claimed.

Historic England has said it has concerns over the proposed 55-home housing development west of St Akelda’s Road in Middleham on heritage grounds, while Richmond Civic Society has objected over the landscape linked to the Norman castle.

Documents submitted with the proposal to North Yorkshire Council highlight how the origins of Middleham are closely related to “the imposing castle
which was started in the 12th century and became the home of Richard Duke
of Gloucester, later Richard III”.

The papers underline how the proposed development was first unveiled more than a decade ago and was granted in 2021, only for access issues to hinder the venture, leading to the consent lapsing.

Agents for the developers have claimed the site could be developed for residential purposes “without harm to the landscape qualities of the area”.

The application states: “The development would sit well on the site without adverse impact on the local landscape. It would have no adverse impact on significant views and vistas or impact on significant characteristics of the local landscape.”

The documents state the main impacts of the development would be upon the setting of the Middleham conservation area, the grade I listed and scheduled monument Middleham Cast and grade I listed Church of St Mary and St Alkelda.

The agents add: “Whilst a number of minor impacts are identified, primarily relating to longer distance views from the north of the site… the heritage assessment advises that these are capable of mitigation.”

An artist’s drawing submitted with the application.


Responding to the proposal, Historic England said it continued to have concerns on heritage grounds owing to the application not including all the proposed details of the housing estate.

It also emphasised the council’s statutory duty to have special regard to the desirability of preserving listed buildings or their setting.

A Historic England spokesman said: “There should be a clear delivery mechanism and comprehensive assurances between what might be proposed in an outline application and what might be built in this sensitive location…”

Richmond Civic Society said it was objecting to the application on the grounds that it “involves a significant loss of landscape value in relation to the very substantial historic interest of the Norman castle”.

Other objectors have claimed a development on the proposed site would significantly alter the view seen by visitors arriving at our historic town from Leyburn, and that buildings to the rear of the development will make “the modern development the dominant feature in the landscape”.

In a letter to the authority one objector wrote: “It is not acceptable that the introduction of a sizeable development of modern housing is allowed to be inserted into the heart of an historic setting that will fundamentally change how the castle and the bridge sit in the landscape, and thus alter the character of Wensleydale.

“It is the character of the dale that is the heart of the economic activity in Wensleydale. Visitors come to see the beauty and historic nature of the dale, not to be confronted with intrusive modern housing estates.”


  1. That development site must be towards half a mile from the castle; this reason/excuse smacks of desperation from the Nimbies, I doubt if that site is visible even from the very top of the castle.

  2. North Yorkshire Council ‘s policy seems to be , just throw houses up anywhere . Like many other proposed developments like the scheme planned for Leyburn this will prove to be a money over everything disaster .It could be a good idea to investigate further some councillors’ motives in allowing these ill thought out estates .

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