A controversial proposal to transform a Yorkshire Dales chapel into a centre to teach heritage crafts has been approved after it was agreed such skills were needed to conserve the area.
Rebecca Watkins told the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s planning committee while she had bought the former Aysgarth Chapel using her own finances to use it as a not for profit educational centre for traditional crafts, heritage skills and youth worker training.
She emphasised the centre would meet numerous environmental and social needs, including that of “the wider Dales community and more regionally the community of the North of England”, adding the venture needed a live-in caretaker, using 30 per cent of the building domestically, to make it viable.
Members heard Ms Watkins had founded Dream Heritage, a group which transforms buildings into community assets and works to give young people a home in the future.
She said she accepted that any use of the building would be restricted due to it having no off-street parking.
Ms Watkins said: “My aim is to empower the next generation to be catalysts for positive change, saving their heritage and community.”
The authority’s cultural heritage member champion Libby Bateman told the meeting people with heritage skills were needed in the area, highlighting concerns over church repairs.
She added many of the young people attending the centre would not have a car and could get there by bus or by a taxi there Ribblehead Station, almost 20 miles away.
Mrs Bateman said: “I am concerned about the parking – I think everybody will be concerned about the parking – it isn’t optimal what’s happening at the moment in parking, but they have put a traffic management plan together and have explained where people can park.”
However, following Aysgarth Parish Council raising major objections to the scheme, including that the proposed centre was not wanted or needed by the local community, the meeting was told the applicant had not sought the views of the Aysgarth community over her plans.
Authority member and Upper Dales councillor Yvonne Peacock told members while the applicant was a director of Dream Heritage, if the proposal was approved there would be nothing to tie the building’s future use to the not for profit group.
Commenting on the business plan for the proposed venture, businesswoman Mrs Peacock, who runs solid fuel, private hire and tearoom businesses in Wensleydale, said: “A training centre for the North of England with the sort of infrastructure we have round here, well I’m afraid I just shook my head at that and thought what else could possibly be right in this business plan?”
Before members voted in support of the proposal, Mrs Peacock said the area already offered training in traditional skills, such as dry stone walling, and the biggest issue over the proposal was exacerbating the village’s parking issues, which were so serious they were raised at every parish council meeting.