Parish councils object to Wensleydale holiday park expansion plans

Parish councils representing communities in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park have claimed a firm’s plan to expand its glamping offer could threaten the national park’s Dark Skies Reserve.

Burton-cum-Walden and Aysgarth and district parish councils have claimed Leisure Resorts Ltd’s plan to remove two holiday lodges and replace them with a further six glamping pods at its Westholme Bank site would prove harmful to the the Bishopdale area close to Wensleydale.

In December 2020, after meeting an array of criteria the national park was designated an International Dark Sky Reserve, one of only 21 in the world, and businesses in the area have pointed towards its benefits for the area’s economy.

Agents for the firm, which runs the well-established holiday park on the north bank of Bishopdale Beck, have highlighted the importance of the tourist destination to the local economy in application documents to the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

They cite regional figures that each glamping pitch generates some £21,839 a year in visitor expenditure.

The documents state the proposed development would perform a positive economic, social and environmental role and represents sustainable development.

The application states the proposals would make a positive contribution to the supply of tourist accommodation and the local rural economy with the potential to sustain about four full-time jobs on the site and another six in shops and services in the local area.

While the firm has claimed the development would not have any major adverse impacts, the parish councils have raised an alarm over the potential “hazardous impact of the increase in pedestrian and vehicular traffic on the narrow road leading to and from the site and on the A684”.

An Aysgarth council spokesperson wrote: “The site currently creates a large amount of pedestrian activity walking from the site up the main road to access the facilities in the village, but there are no footpaths on the first part of the A684.

“Many of these people already create a hazard by walking in the road with their backs to the traffic oblivious to any hazard they might be creating or the risk to themselves from fast moving traffic.”

A spokesperson for the Aysgarth authority added the holiday park site was already much bigger than the original caravan park and had “a detrimental impact on the dark sky initiative”.

Both parish councils said any further expansion would be an over development of the site and add to that detrimental impact

Burton-cum-Walden expansion of the site “threatens to overwhelm the area around it and alter the whole character of Bishopdale and West Burton”.

In a report to a meeting of the park authority’s planning committee, which will consider the proposal on Tuesday, officers said there was “clearly a pre-existing road safety issue” outside the site, with guests frequently walking up the narrow and steep minor road, in the dark, and across the A684 to the village.

However, they emphasised how highway bosses had not objected to the plan on safety grounds and that there was insufficient “tangible evidence to justify challenging that view”.

Officers added the proposed pods had fewer and smaller openings than the holiday lodges they would replace and that new external lighting could be controlled by condition to ensure that it meets the authority’s Dark Skies’ requirements.

Recommending the scheme be approved, officers stated the proposed development represents a diversification of holiday accommodation and the increase in the number of places to stay would not harm the landscape character of the national park.