Farmers speak of relief after backing from national park planning committee

The field barn east of Grinton, which it is proposed to convert into a farmworker's home.

Farmers whose families have helped shape the landscapes of a national park for generations have spoken of their gratitude and relief after being allowed to live near their livestock.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s planning committee overwhelmingly rejected officers’ recommendations for a second time over planning applications for farms in Swaledale and Wharfedale after the soundness of its initial decisions had been “referred back”.

Officers had emphasised the decision to re-examine the decisions had not been “for officers to reinforce their reasons for their recommendations”.

The committee’s chairman, Julie Martin said: “Where a committee is minded to make a decision that is contrary to the officers’ recommendation the application in most cases is referred back to the next committee meeting to allow officers to review the reasons that members have given for that decision to make sure those reasons are legally sound.”

Officers told members their refusal of the application by the Duke of Devonshire’s Bolton Abbey estate to convert Winterburn family’s home of more than 300 years, a shop and nearby agricultural buildings into extra storage and offices could be justified.

They said it could be shown there was a continuing need for the premises for farming, a community shop would be lost, and exceptional consequences for the family.

Members had previously described the estate’s move, which would have meant the Winterburn family would leave the farm, as “unconscionable”.

Officers said approval of the Grinton application to convert a derelict barn into a home on the basis there was a need for an additional home for the farm business and that it would get rid of an eyesore was acceptable, despite their previous concerns it was an unnecessary development.

Member Ian McPherson said officers’ review of the decisions had been “extremely fair”.

After the meeting it was claimed the decisions should serve as a signal of a determination to conserve communities and at the same time the future of farming and the landscapes of the national park.

Upper Dales councillor Yvonne Peacock said she was delighted uncertainty for the families had been ended and that it was vital for the continuation of hill farming that workers were supported and that they had somewhere to live.

The Porter family thanked the planning committee for its consideration, saying uncertainty over their proposal had left them unable to plan their futures.