Divisions after Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority rejects barn conversions

Pike Hill Barn looking from Hawes. Photo: YDNPA.

A deep division has opened up between those charged with deciding the future shape of a national park amid a row over how best to conserve its landscapes.

Tension ran high at the Yorkshire Dales National Park’s planning committee as a group of members dedicated to providing more housing for families ignored legal warnings in a bid to see several stone barn conversion schemes approved.

A packed meeting at the authority’s base in Bainbridge saw the committee’s chairman, Caroline Thornton-Berry, forced to break members’ deadlock over three schemes, at Grinton, Hawes and Appersett, and reject them all with her casting vote.

Officers had warned the barn schemes failed to meet policies designed to meet the authority’s main purpose of conserving the national park and the proposals threatened the architecturally and historically important features of the park.

None of the eight members who voted to refuse the schemes explained their decision, but officers stated unless they were confident of having defensible reasons for going against the authority’s policy by approving the schemes, they were in danger of making unlawful decisions.

The meeting was told that approving the schemes could lead to judicial reviews at the High Court, which if quashed could land the authority with “a heavy financial penalty”.

A series of tense exchanges between members pressing for the schemes to be passed and officers, who had recommended all three be rejected, over issues such as the distance between a barn and the road or from the nearest settlement.

After members were presented with the views of the authority’s barrister about the legality of approving the schemes, Upper Dales councillor and planning committee member John Blackie said he did not believe passing them would “open the floodgates” for inappropriate developments.

He said communities such as the one in Arkengarthdale were suffering from a lack of affordable and suitable homes for families and members needed to show solidarity for residents wanting to continue living in the area.

Fellow member and leader of Richmondshire District Council Yvonne Peacock urged the committee to reject the legal advice and have the matter decided by the Secretary of State.

She said: “We cannot expect to sustain our communities and to look after our landscape if we don’t have people wanting to live and work in the Dales.

“Let us send the decision and say we believe in attracting families for our schools and communities. This is what we are here for.”

After the meeting, Mrs Peacock said she could not recall the park authority having been so deeply divided for two decades.

Speaking after the meeting,  Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority chairman and planning committee member, Carl Lis, said:  “I need to stress that we are permitting lots of barn conversions – 99 of them since 2015, against eight refusals – but they do need to be in the right locations.

“Approvals for the three applications would have led to landscape harm, in part because such developments would bring with them new tracks, car parking, lighting, overhead lines and the other facilities necessary for residential use.”

1 Comment

  1. It is about time that people started to challenge these decisions in the same way that the second home owners did when they successfully prevented the huge increase in council tax for second homes by mobilising and setting up an organisation with the right people leading it with contacts in the right places, press etc. They need to highlight the inequalities and discriminatory sometimes largely personal opinion based decisions made by people who are too easily swayed by pressure from associations with no power or authority in the planning system. Highlighting that Barn conversions for holiday let along with the same paths, electric cables etc which were given as a reason for refusal yesterday, are being granted where local residency has been discouraged, ask the YDNPA what is the difference between roads constructed up to the moors (needed to take the many workers and participants who generate huge income for the area) and an existing path/driveway to an existing building to be used to take a family back home after a days work maintaining the landscape of the Dales in the same way their families have done for generations. Also, and I know from experience that this fact is not well known in the towns and cities , making sure that everyone knows that National Parks are not public owned, most of the land within is privately owned and a large proportion by the small land owners who have farmed the land for generations and are largely responsible for the way the Dales look today. I would suggest that it be named True Friends of the Dales and would ask Sir Gary Verity if he is prepared to help look after his neighbours, ensure that young Dales folk are helped to stay in the Dales and defect from his presidency of FOTD to be one of the first to put his weight behind the campaign.

Comments are closed.