Council seeks to regain planning control over mansion

West Layton Manor.

A council is seeking to regain planning control of a Victorian mansion built by a  coal mining magnate, seven years after a boutique hotel started welcoming guests there, despite having been licensed by the same local authority.

Neighbours of West Layton Manor, which is close to the A66 and Ravensworth, say despite having raised concerns over the unauthorised development at a Richmondshire District Council licensing meeting, the enterprise has been allowed to continue, causing “stress and anxiety”.

The comments follow the property’s owners applying for retrospective permission to use a section of the extensive property, which was built in the 1870s by North-East coal mining tycoon John Easton, as a hotel.

The documents state while the six-bedroom hotel, which has features such as an honesty bar, has received “exceptional” ratings from guests, the planning status of the property pre-2000 is unclear from a review of the council’s online planning register.

However, the documents state a hotel operated in the building between 1984 and 2000, and since 2015 the property has been used as a boutique hotel, while other parts of the building have remained as residential.

They state the hotel is at a gateway to the Yorkshire Dales and has “proven to be very popular with its guests”.

If the proposal is approved it would result in the retention of five jobs, the papers state.

The application states: “The accommodation, which has operated in its present guise as a boutique hotel for over seven years, contributes to the provision of high-quality tourist and business accommodation stock in the north Richmondshire sub-area.

“It is also notable that the licensed bar has operated with full oversight from Richmondshire Council Licensing Department for the past seven years without issue or complaint.”

The proposal follows the council’s Retail, Leisure and Town Centre Study in 2019, which highlighted a gap in the provision of modern, accredited and serviced hotel stock in Richmondshire, with just 5.5 per cent of all visitors using serviced accommodation.

The application states the proposal offers an opportunity to continue to significantly boost the tourist economy, a key economic sector in Richmondshire, by improving the provision of high quality, accredited accommodation stock in the Richmond area.

However, in an objection to the plan, neighbours have claimed the business has steadily expanded and upgraded since being bought and changed into a hotel, bolstered by “a massive publicity campaign”.

They said hotel guests and deliveries have regularly caused late night and early morning disturbances.

The neighbours wrote: “We feel changing to a boutique hotel will only exacerbate these problems and with increased guests staying day and night this will only increase the stress and anxiety for our specialist foster children and disrupt and diminish the quality of our lifestyle.”

The authority has declined to answer how the lack of planning control over the mansion had became apparent.

When asked why the hotel had been given a licence despite not having planning consent, a council spokesman said the fact that the premises had been licensed for use did not have any bearing on its planning status and the planning status had no bearing on its ability to be licensed.

He said: “The two regimes are linked through a consultation process but enforcement of the rules relating to each are entirely separate.

“At the present time the planning authority is considering a planning application in relation to the site which will focus on the planning considerations and the use of the land not the identity of who uses it. This means that any planning permission granted may impose conditions more limiting than that of the licence.”