Decision deferred on Bishopdale slurry store

The field above the cows at the west end of Thoralby could become the site of a 40.5m diameter slurry plant.

It would be wrong to send a negative message to Dales’ dairy farmers at a time when so many were pulling out of that business,  North Yorkshire county councillor John Blackie told the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s planning committee.

The authority’s head of development management, Richard Graham, had supported the planning officer’s recommendation to refuse permission for a 40.5m diameter concrete slurry store to be constructed in a field above Thoralby.

Mr Graham told the meeting that the slurry plant would be almost as long as the Authority’s office building in Bainbridge and similar in height.

Richmondshire District councillor Yvonne Peacock, however, agreed with Cllr Blackie and said: “I know there are problems but to flatly refuse it would be wrong.”

The majority of the committee agreed with Cllrs Blackie and Peacock that it was better to defer a decision and give Michael Lancaster of Town Head Farm, Thoralby, more time to discuss the issue with the planning officers.

Thoralby parish meeting and Aysgarth and District Parish Council had suggested how to better screen the concrete tank but committee member Julie Martin warned that there might be no effective way of doing so.

The planning officer stated: “The construction of a large concrete tank situated by itself on a hillside is an industrial scale development that would have an adverse impact on the landscape.”

He added that, if approved, it would set a precedent which could lead to a series of large slurry tanks along dale sides.

Like Thoralby Parish Meeting he was also concerned that the construction of the tank and the measures taken to try and screen it would lead to the loss of archaeological features.

Mr Lancaster, however, believed that the proposed slurry store could be effectively screened with bunds and trees. He told the committee: “As a resident of Bishopdale I am acutely conscious that the development needs to fit in with the wider landscape.”

He said the new store would have the capacity for six months storage compared to just four weeks at the present one within the farm complex at Town Head Farm.  This, he explained, would enable him to run a more efficient dairy business, decrease the number of vehicle movements through the village, reduce the amount of chemical fertilisers being used, and increase grass production.

“This store will represent the biggest capital investment made by the business in the last ten years and is an essential investment,” he stated.

He told the committee that, since he took over the farm from his father 11 years ago, he had continually invested in improving the condition of the land and the facilities at Town Head Farm, and that he had increased the herd to 300 cows and 300 followers.

The planning officer accepted that the proposed tank would reduce the risk of water pollution and would make the farm compliant with current legislation regarding slurry storage.  But he added: “It is considered that these potential environmental benefits are outweighed by the harm caused.”