The Environment Agency has objected to an award-winning Wensleydale holiday park caravan park’s expansion plans.
The government body’s concerns over Akebar Country Park’s proposals to extend its holiday park with 27 more lodges or caravans at the 29-acre site outside Patrick Brompton, near Leyburn, follow community leaders repeatedly questioning the long-term demand for such additional tourism facilities.
Councillors have said while the Yorkshire Dales area had seen numerous plans to create holiday lodge or glamping-style accommodation since the Covid-19 pandemic it was unclear what would become of the holiday sites once demand for “staycations” dropped off.
In planning application documents lodged in February, agents for Akebar Park, which also features an 18-hole golf course and an inn, said the forced closure of hospitality businesses during the pandemic had “a massive impact” on the tourist-dependent business which employs 28 full-time equivalent staff.
The papers stated as the crisis continued it became obvious that longer term measures had to be taken to strengthen the business and as the caravan park operation supported other parts of the business, it was aiming to site accommodation on the course, which would be cut to nine holes.
The application adds the proposal, if approved, could generate an additional spending of over £200,000 per annum in the local economy each year.
Agents for the firm which offers holiday homes on the site from £34,995, wrote: “This development is seen as vital to the business and will allow not only the existing jobs on the caravan park to be protected it should also create additional employment and support the vitality of the other aspects of the business.
“With this proposal the applicant is responding to the current coronavirus crisis by investing in the business to further improve customer choice by offering additional high quality accommodation.”
However, in objections to the scheme, residents said the site had already seen numerous developments, resulting in more than 280 holiday lodges, caravans and pitches, while the latest scheme would involve several extra acres of land close to a designated nature conservation site and waterways.
In its response over the plans, the Environment Agency said it was unclear whether risks posed to surface water and groundwater by expanding the accommodation could be safely managed and the applicants would need to be able to provide detailed reassurances.
Mirroring some residents’ concerns, Newton le Willows Parish Council said it objected “on account of risks of pollution downstream” in Burton Beck and Newton Beck.
The parish council wrote: “We are concerned as to whether the reed beds have the capacity to filter and purify the increased amount of effluent that would be discharged from the new static caravans or lodges before entering the water courses.
“We note from the ecological appraisal that the water course and adjacent flower meadows are species rich as regards wildlife and need protection. In particular we note that a further survey is recommended to identify the presence/absence of great crested newts.”
One resident wrote: “A further increase of lodges on the site will continue to have a detrimental effect to the surrounding land and what’s left of the dwindling wildlife such as curlew, kingfisher and heron.”