Major overhaul of Middleham racing yard overcomes heritage concerns

Manor House Farm.

A major redevelopment of the racing yard responsible for last northern-trained Derby winner, which could see 35 jobs created in a small rural market town, has been recommended for approval after overcoming heritage concerns.

Owner James Horton’s scheme to modernise and overhaul the racehorse training facilities at Manor House Farm, Middleham, will be considered by Richmondshire District Council on Tuesday, some 15 months after he bought the yard and announced Sir Michael Stoute’s assistant James Horton would take on the role of trainer.

The proposals would see residential accommodation provided for some staff, replacement and new buildings and training areas, demolition of the former farmhouse, stables and modern agricultural buildings and the conversion of traditional outbuildings.

Plans for the 289-acre farm off Coverham Lane, which was previously owned by classic-winning breeder Lenore ‘Lennie’ Peacock, who died in 2019 aged 97, features and 70-metre long indoor riding school and linear gallops away from the nearby public ones used by other Middleham yards.

In a document submitted alongside the application, a spokesman for Mr Horton said: “As with all sporting facilities as time moves on the facilities need to improve and one needs to keep pace with the national trends if the yard is to be successful in the sport and attract owners to keep Middleham on par with other training centres around the country.”

The proposals have received local support with Middleham Town Council responding to the planning authority that on-site accommodation is insufficient at a number of yards in the area.

The town council wrote: “The plan proposes 35 staff but only provides accommodation for three. Existing pressure on local permanent accommodation results in stable staff living as far afield as Colburn and Darlington, requiring travel in to Middleham every day at 0500 – 0600hrs in winter before the gritters are out on their morning runs.

“This is a daily potential risk that can and should be avoided through the provision of more accommodation, especially single accommodation.

“Avoiding such journeys is also environmentally preferable as they are, inevitably, made by individual private car, there being no feasible public transport option.”

Historic England said initially it had “considerable concerns on heritage grounds”, as the scheme did not take proper account of the setting of Middleham Conservation Area and the setting of nearby motte and bailey castle scheduled monument William’s Hill.

However,  following issuing several advice letters to the applicant, the heritage watchdog said revisions to the scheme had gone “a considerable way to addressing their concerns”, and lifted their objection.

Recommending the scheme for approval, planning officers said it was thought concerns over the new gallops crossing a popular public right of way could be overcome with the creation of an underpass.

They added the increased employment potential and benefits to the rural economy outweighed the visual impact that the development would have in open countryside.