A plan to create holiday lodge park close to a 12th century monastery has been given consent for a third time, despite police objecting to the scheme on road safety grounds, fears of building too much tourist accommodation and continuing concerns it will impact on the English Heritage attraction.
Leisure Park Ltd told a North Yorkshire Council meeting its proposal to build 12 holiday lodges near Easby Conservation Area and its abbey, which is one of the best preserved monasteries of the Premonstratensian white canons, reflected residents concerns over the development.
Councillors agreed the principle of the development had been set following two previous proposals to launch holiday lodges on the pastoral farmland site near Richmond, which were both rejected by Richmondshire District Council before being approved by a government planning inspector at appeal.
An agent for the developer told the meeting the family-run firm behind the latest “scaled-back” proposal reflected residents concerns, with a great reduction in the expanse of the holiday lodge site to two acres.
He added the Easby Park proposal was in line with both local and national planning policy.
The meeting heard more than 5,300 additional trees and shrubs would be planted to create wildlife habitats, leading the development to be well screened, and that the holiday park would lead to a negligible rise in traffic.
The agent said: “Easby Park respects the character and appearance of the area.”
The meeting was told while the council’s highways officers had raised no objections over the development, a North Yorkshire Police traffic safety expert had stated the increase in vehicles on the lane “can only put extra pressure the junctions at both ends”, and that neither could easily be improved.
The proposal had also generated opposition of more than 900 signatures in an online petition as well as 132 letters to the council from residents, of which 130 objected to the development, claiming it would “disfigure this unique amenity”.
Residents said the rural setting was “critical” to the setting of Easby Abbey and that building cabins would “shatter the frame of this stunning picture and seriously impact the agricultural nature of the hamlet”.
Easby resident John Clarke told the committee nothing had changed at the site in the 14 years since councillors overwhelmingly agreed the log cabins would appear “alien features in this attractive stone setting”.
He underlined how police had concluded should the development be approved “the public would not be safe” on Easby’s single-track lane and questioned claims that passing could be created.
Graham Berry, of Easby Parish Meeting, said the council’s planning policies supported tourism initiatives only if they met criteria such as contributing to the social and economic needs of the area.
He said there were already at least eight other holiday lodge-type sites in the local area, adding: “Nowhere has it been taken into account the proliferation of these sites around Richmond, which meet the demand for this kind of holiday accommodation.
Mr Berry said: “The site is going to be creating a new village of privately-owned wooden cabins totally out of keeping with the historic landscape it sits in.”