Housing boss says Government proposal to boost homes would backfire

Swaledale. Photo: VisitBritain.

North Yorkshire’s housing boss has criticised Government proposals to relax planning rules in national parks, saying if approved they would have a similar impact to ending the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales as protected landscapes.

While the Government has claimed allowing the conversion of barns, offices and cafes in national parks without planning approval would help boost the supply of housing, Councillor Simon Myers said potential changes outlined for the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill would not resolve any of North Yorkshire’s housing issues.

Coun Myers said the authority would consider inviting one of the Government ministers behind the proposed legislation to visit North Yorkshire to view the impact granting permitted development rights on barns would have on areas such as Swaledale.

The criticism from Conservative-run North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for housing and leisure follows an equally condemnatory reaction from the leaders of the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales national park authorities.

The Government is consulting on its plans to remove red tape around converting empty offices, agricultural buildings and retail premises, as well as make it easier to extend commercial buildings and provide more certainty over some types of development.

Government officials have stated they would only drop the proposals if “watertight” reasons not to require planning permission emerged.

In letters raising objections to the proposals, residents and parish councils said the Government was not thinking about impacts on the wider public and claimed both national parks “will be damaged beyond repair and for ever if this comes into force”.

Following a meeting of Grosmont Parish Council, the clerk wrote: “It was felt it is ridiculous to even consider such permitted development when the consequences could be huge.”

Coun Myers said the potential legislative changes were “not thinking about what the purpose of the protected landscape is as the Yorkshire Dales was about field barns”.

He said while he supported the current Yorkshire Dales policy allowing barn conversions that were close to roads, some made the area “look like Toytown”.

While the Government has stated the legislation is aimed at kick starting an increase in housing supply, Coun Myers questioned whether the legislation would do anything to ease the county’s housing crisis, and in particular to boost affordable housing.

Referring to the proposal to allow barns to be converted into homes, Coun Myers said: “It isn’t just some little field barn that is suddenly lived in.

“It’s the hardstanding, it’s all the hard wiring that has to go in. It’s cars parked outside and all the infrastructure. It doesn’t meet any affordable housing requirements, it doesn’t fulfil any need that we have.

“It would be really detrimental. You may as well say we give up protected landscapes.”


  1. Here we go again. Planning agreed for holiday cottages but not for a farmers family to live in. Do they really think that holiday cottage guests don’t need electricity, parking, rubbish bins … and nowadays Sat tv, wi fi ih and let’s not forget , hot tubs. That’s ridiculous, It’s just an excuse, and a very poor one at that.
    If they don’t reverse the trend and allow families to convert these redundant and often beyond repair buildings In to homes for local workers no one will want to come to look at the collapsed buildings, no cafes or pubs to eat/drink in and no shops to spend money in because they will be closed due to lack of staff. Do they not realise that for many young people, being allowed to convert an existing building is the very cheapest option and often the only route to ownership/housing and security for young families available to them. This has been demonstrated by the recent revelation of the shocking prices of the fabulous new “local occupancy” houses in Bainbridge where it appears from statements from the National Parks confirmed that it would allow people looking to live and work in the area – including those earning a decent salary eg in the National Parks offices no doubt. What about those already here working in the cafes pubs , farms and other businesses who would love to own their own homes in the area they were born in and have families in. We are faced with schools closing, Doctors surgeries becoming less viable, very little public transport .
    Keeping existing families in the Dales is far more important than having unused derelict buildings for visitors to see.
    What would happen if every old unused building in London, Leeds, Manchester or Hull etc were allowed to collapse and become derelict. I don’t think so. Please rethink the discriminatory approach to local housing. Allow barn conversions for local occupancy, build more houses without having to pay a levy on developments over a certain number of houses and when planning is given for affordable housing – make sure the price is consummate with the average wage in the area . Please let’s not fall foul of being governed by an authority so far away and whose officers have no real understanding of the issues that rural areas are faced with.

  2. I foresee an influx of wealthy Southerners renovating barns for nice little weekend bolt holes .Field barns are an iconic symbol of The Dales , this is the thin end of the wedge and would do nothing to alleviate the housing shortage at the lower end of the market for local residents .

  3. There are more than enough brown sites without having to look at green sites.
    New builds in the National Parks would affect the unique beauty and therefor tourism.

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