National park’s ‘show of support’ to popular country show

Kilnsey Crag, opposite the Kilnsey Show field. Picture: Google

National park custodians have postponed a decision over a move designed to consolidate the future of a Yorkshire Dales country show, in a bid to resolve an impasse over conserving one of the protected area’s most widely appreciated landscapes and its cultural heritage.

Members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s planning committee unanimously voted to “give a show of support” to the Upper Wharfedale Agricultural Society by not completely rejecting its ambition to create a building to store the Kilnsey Show’s equipment, such as sheep hurdles and crowd control barriers.

Ahead of the meeting the society had warned without replacing its small, narrow and dilapidated storage building with one access door, the show, which attracts crowds of around 15,000 annually, could not continue as the cost of hiring in equipment was “prohibitive”.

The society says its volunteers spend three weeks setting up and taking down the event, staged in a large field beside the River Wharfe and opposite Kilnsey Crag over the August Bank Holiday weekend, partly because much of the equipment has to be brought to the site.

An officer told the committee while the principle of a storage building for the Kilnsey Show was supported in very general terms, the proposal to locate a modern 23m by 9m by 4m building beside Kilnsey Crag would have “a truly harmful impact on landscape of this part of Wharfedale”.

She added: “It is wide and flat with one of the most iconic geological landmarks in the Dales close by.

“The crag features on many cards, in pictures and photographs and is an integral part of the identity of the national park.”

The meeting heard while the landowner had agreed to plant trees along the riverbank to mitigate the harmful impact of the proposed store, officers believed as the river was 250m from the application site and the road by which people enter Wharfedale much closer, the action would “have almost no impact at all in screening the building”.

Officers said the society had rejected suggestions the storage building could be sited elsewhere on the Kilnsey Estate, within a neighbouring farm, on the edge of a nearby settlement or in an area lined up for development, such as Threshfield Quarry.

Calling for a decision on the proposal to be deferred, Wharfedale councillor Richard Foster said while the application was “not good enough as it stands” it was important for both the dale and the wider national park that a resolution was found.

He said: “I do think there is a solution out there with planning officers and the show working together. We do need to get a solution to this, desperately.”

Other members said as the application was important for a community rather than an individual the right thing to do would be to give the society more time to overcome the officer’s objections.

The committee concluded that alternative solutions needed to be explored more thoroughly and if possible a compromise brokered, saying alongside the national park authority’s first purpose to protect the landscapes, they were also mindful of their duty to conserve the park’s cultural heritage.