Councillors approve bedsit accommodation for young racing stable workers in Middleham

The proposed centre would include the redevelopment of Hill House, Middleham.

Councillors have approved a housing and welfare complex for young people who work in the racing industry despite objections from residents.

A planning application for ten bedsits, a gym, treatment room and living space at Mill House and West Hill House in Middleham went before district councillors on Wednesday evening.

The plans were submitted by charity Racing Welfare with the aim of providing managed bedsit accommodation, particularly for the youngest racing apprentices, who may be working away from home for the first time.

The project is being supported by the Jessica Bethell Foundation, a charity set up by racehorse trainer James Bethell and wife Sally following the tragic death of their daughter Jessica from meningitis in 2012.

The centre will include welfare, social, physical, medical and practical facilities, including areas for study and a gym and fitness area.

Documents submitted with the planning application state that University of Cambridge research for Racing Welfare found that there was generally a lack of suitable housing for single young people working within the industry.

It states that the racing industry is relatively unusual in that very young people often have to migrate for employment in many cases moving away from family and friends and support networks to live independently for the first time.

The report suggest that a good model for shared housing for single young people working in the industry could be a hostel type unit with self-contained en-suite bedrooms and some communal areas as well.

The plans, originally submitted in January, have been changed following feedback from the consultation.

However, Middleham Town Council called for the plans to be rejected.

The council said it has “every sympathy with, and support the aims of, the Jessica Bethell Foundation and are also strongly supportive of the work of Racing Welfare, recognising the need for more affordable and supported accommodation in Middleham for young people starting out on their careers in racing”.

However, it added: “As it stands, an unwarranted level of harm would be done to a listed building and its setting within Middleham Conservation Area and an unacceptable level of detriment would be inflicted on neighbours. The balance is still not right.

“Overall Middleham Town Council considers that this site, its listed building and surroundings are inappropriate for the proposed development and that a different site for purpose built accommodation together with use of the available spare capacity within the nearby Middleham Key Centre would be a better and more cost-effective alternative for all parties.”

A number of other residents also raised objections to the scheme.

But Middleham resident and Racing Welfare worker Gail Burton-Pye said that while change was scary the new use of the building would benefit both the racing industry and the town.

She said it was unfair to suggest the young occupants would cause undue noise and disturbance, adding that the there would be wardens on site 24 hours a day.

The committee voted in favour of the plans seven to one.