National park planners recommend members’ decisions be overturned

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

Decisions which would enable long established farming families to live near their livestock and help maintain fragile landscapes in a national park should be overturned, planners say.

Last month, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s planning committee rejected officers’ advice to refuse a proposal to convert a barn in Grinton, Swaledale, in a move members said would help stop the exodus of young people from the area and support the future of hill farming.

The meeting heard plans to convert the barn had been approved in October last year, only for it to be rejected two months later as members were warned approving the scheme could seriously undermine the authority’s ability to insist developers follow its planning policy.

At the same meeting last month, members also rejected officers’ advice to approve a change of use of a home, barn and agricultural buildings to form offices, storage buildings and workshops at a farm in Beamsley, Wharfedale.

Members dismissed the scheme by the Duke of Devonshire’s Bolton Abbey Estate saying it was “unconscionable” that the family which had tenanted the farm for three centuries would have to move out of their home.

Parish council representative Allen Kirkbride said the Swaledale scheme would “turn an eyesore into a home for a young family which is going to live in the Dales and farm in the Dales”, while the “future of farming in the Dales” was at stake over the Wharfedale proposal.

However, the park authority has “referenced back” both decisions.

Members rejected the Wharfedale scheme saying it was in conflict with the first statutory national park, to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage.

In a report to next week’s meeting, officers said the duke’s estate had equally important role as the farm to play in managing and maintaining the landscape.

Officers said a key reason for the granting of the Swaledale scheme, that a new home was essential for the farm’s future, was also questionable.

A report to the meeting states following advice from a consultant it had been found there was no need for an extra home for the farm, particularly as the business owned a nearby property that was being let to holiday-makers.

The head of the park authority’s development management, Richard Graham, said the decision to re-examine the decisions was not “for officers to reinforce their reasons for their recommendations”.

Ahead of the meeting, Upper Dales councillor Yvonne Peacock said schemes such as the Swaledale proposal were vital for the future of both the national park’s landscapes and communities and urged members to stick to their previous decisions.