Proposals to find new uses for historic farm buildings in one of the country’s most highly protected areas look set to reignite debate over how best to conserve its landscapes.
A series of applications to enable families to live in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the conservation of its traditional stone barn heritage features and bolster farm enterprises have been lodged with the park’s planners in recent weeks.
The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has repeatedly emphasised how it has approved a large number of barn conversions and rejected a small amount after being criticised by campaigners wanting to see more homes made available to strengthen communities.
The latest plans include 18th century barns at Chapel-le-Dale and in Ribblesdale and a scheme for a traditional field barn close to Hawes, which has previously sparked controversy.
A young couple’s request to convert the Hawes barn into their family home was rejected by the authority’s planning committee last year amid a row over whether the barn was in open countryside.
Planning officers said the proposal did not meet any of the authority’s criteria which allow barns to be converted for high intensity uses, such as a home, and “would be visually intrusive and degrade the quality of the landscape” in a highly visible location beside the Pennine Way.
Documents submitted to the authority, state the couple have lived in Hawes all their lives, have two children who attend the local schools and the proposal would allow them to continue living there and working in the family sheep dealing business.
It states: “The siting of the barn is within the built area of Hawes and is not located out in open countryside as previously argued by the planning authority.”
Hawes councillor Jill McMullon said she had been staggered by the authority’s rejection of the scheme last year and called for a site visit so members could decide whether the barn was in open countryside.
She added: “This proposal is the perfect example of everything the national park authority are promoting in wanting young families to remain in the Dales, supporting farming enterprises and conserving the heritage.”
Papers lodged for the Chapel-le-Dale proposal, which could find less hurdles to overcome as it at the roadside between Whernside and Ingleborough, state it is degrading and needs a new use as a holiday let to ensure the heritage asset is maintained for future generations.
The documents state the applicant farms about 400 hectares of land in the park and “the character and appearance of this treasured landscape is not something that is naturally occurring, but is the product of farming activities which manage the land in a particular way”.
They state the farming operations do not generate a long-term sustainable income and due to “considerable political uncertainty as to how environmentally-sensitive farming operations will continue to be supported in the future, diversification of the business is essential.
The Ribblesdale scheme would see the traditional barn converted into a three-bedroom home for local occupancy use.
The papers state the plan would provide a use of the building which would otherwise be at risk of neglect.