Park planners reject local plumber’s application for house

Beck Bitts, near Askrigg.

By Pip Land

Local plumbers do provide an essential service in the Dales two Wensleydale councillors told the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s planning committee on Tuesday during one of several debates when they questioned the recommendations made by officers.

Richmondshire District councillor Yvonne Peacock and Askrigg parish councillor Allen Kirkbride opposed the conversion of a barn at Countersett and any enforcement action concerning the “castle folly” at Forbidden Corner in Coverdale.

And they supported David Scarr’s application to convert part of his building at Beck Bitts near Askrigg into a three-bedroom dwelling which would allow a local plumber to live next door to the workshop.

Cllr Peacock accepted that it would be an exception to policy to approve the application but pointed out that this business employed local people who served local people.

She said: “To us it is essential that we keep these people.”

The danger was, she said, that they would give up and move to Leyburn to have more secure premises as there had been so many thefts from the workshop at Askrigg.

As a member of the local FarmWatch Cllr Kirkbride told members that the workshop had suffered the most break-ins of any premises in mid Wensleydale.

The police had stated that one way to reduce the problem was to have someone living at the site.

The majority of the committee, however, agreed with the planning officer that there was no justification for an exception to the “no dwellings in the open countryside” rule unless they were required for workers in agriculture, forestry or other rural-based enterprise who had to live in a rural location.

The planning officer said that approval would also be against the policies aimed at retaining the few commercial workshops in the National Park. He also stated that the creation of a dwelling would harm the character and appearance of the open countryside in a tranquil and visually attractive area.

Askrigg Parish Council had told the Authority that it was fully supportive of the application because it should improve the area and reduce possible crime.

It was the enforcement officer who requested that enforcement action should be taken against the owner of Forbidden Corner in Coverdale.  The 6.8m high “mock medieval castle” which has been erected there was not, he stated, screened by trees and could easily be seen.

“It is considered that the ‘castle folly’ causes harm to the significance of the historic landscape and undermines the public understanding of the Special Qualities of the National Park,” he said.

Jim Munday retorted: “It should stay in Disneyland”. And all but Cllrs Peacock and Kirkbride agreed with him.

“It reminds me of an abbey,” commented Cllr Kirkbride, and Cllr Peacock felt that the viewing platform at the top with its magnificent views across Coverdale would attract even more tourists to that dale.

It was agreed, however, that an enforcement notice should be issued with a compliance notice of three months, requiring the demolition and removal of the “castle folly” and the restoration of the site to its previous condition with no structures higher than three metres.

Cllrs Peacock and Kirkbride continued to maintain that a barn at East Hill Top, Countersett, would  have a negative impact upon the landscape and particularly the area around the River Bain and Semerwater.

Last month the committee had refused permission and it was referred back to Tuesday’s meeting for confirmation. But this time the majority of the members agreed with the planning officer that it would be against the policy of the new Local Plan to refuse permission to convert the barn so that it could be used either as a holiday let or a local occupancy one-bedroom dwelling.

Mr Munday commented that the site was well concealed and if the barn was left undeveloped it would become just another pile of stones.

“It is well worth restoring and put to beneficial use. It is a redundant former agricultural field barn. It is a building of architectural and historical importance which needs a new use to ensure its longevity,” he said.

Cllr Kirkbride commented: “I probably know this site better than anybody else. To my mind it is out of the way. It is not close enough to form part of an enclosed group. I think it is out of place.”

Cllrs Peacock and Kirkbride joined the majority of the members in voting to approve the erection of an agricultural building at Broad Park, Barden because it was needed for the welfare of the livestock and a farmer’s livelihood.

The tenant farmer had agreed to reduce the size of the barn and move it closer to other buildings so as to reduce the impact upon the landscape around Lower Barden Reservoir but the planning officer had still recommended refusal.  The committee’s decision will need to be ratified at another meeting.

ARC News Service