Plan for Arkengarthdale pub staff accommodation approved despite objections

The location of the proposed accommodation. Photo: Google.

Custodians of a national park have approved a move seeking to address the critical shortage of accommodation for hospitality staff, despite hearing an overwhelming majority of residents vigorously opposed the plan to build on a prominent beauty spot.

A narrow majority of members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s planning committee voted in favour of entrepreneur Charles Cody’s proposal to build housing for staff on the playing field he gifted to Arkengarthdale school, 17 years before it closed due to a lack of pupils.

The closure of the school, of which Mr Cody was chairman of governors, after 360 years, was linked by many to the lack of housing for people on lower incomes in the dale.

Mr Cody, who runs the Charles Bathurst Inn near Langthwaite and the Punch Bowl Inn in Swaledale, told the meeting while he had employed more than 200 local staff since launching the businesses, there had been “a steady change in the demographics” of Arkengarthdale combined with a decline in its overall population.

He said there was a clear need to attract staff into the dale, but nowhere for them to live.

The landlord said despite seeking to buy properties in the area to accommodate his staff, he had been unable to compete with the holiday cottage market.

Mr Cody added alternative sites in the dale would not be a viable alternative.

The meeting heard Arkengarthdale Parish Council had a tradition of supporting businesses in the area, but was opposed to the scheme as the proposed building site was very prominent and would “obscure an iconic view” across the dale.

Parish councillor Paul Harker underlined the strength of feeling among residents against the proposal, before residents claimed it would “spoil the natural beauty of Arkengarthdale needlessly”.

Upper Dales councillor and park authority member Yvonne Peacock said: “No one is against having some accommodation built. It is just in the wrong place.”

The meeting heard some members state that residents did not want staff accommodation near their homes, due to the tendency for young hospitality workers to “party”, with one highlighting the reason behind staff quarters in the movie Dirty Dancing being distanced from the hotel guest accommodation.

The authority’s head of development management, Richard Graham, told the meeting a similar view was available in many other locations in the dale and “very little would get built in the national park” if all scenic views were protected.

Other members highlighted how the authority worked hard to provide support for the park’s agricultural sector, and that the hospitality industry was in just as much need of support.

They pointed towards the volume of second homes in the area as a leading reason why the hospitality industry was struggling to recruit staff, adding the harm to the landscape was outweighed by the social benefits of the proposal.