Planners approve Leyburn business’ expansion plans

A new access road has already been created to the Washfold site.

One of the biggest employers in the Dales has had plans approved to expand with a farming museum featuring a vintage tractor collection.

A meeting of Richmondshire District Council’s planning committee heard elected members enthusiastically support the Metcalfe family’s plans to showcase how the agricultural venture at Washfold Farm, outside Leyburn, had developed.

The family enterprise was launched off Whipperdale Bank in 1941 with one worker and 18 cows, and the meeting heard it now employed some 230 people.

Agents for the Metcalfes said they wanted to build staff offices, agricultural buildings and a museum on the site, which has become the base for several enterprises such as a heavy haulage firm alongside a 1,300 pedigree Holstein dairy herd and 1,100 sheep.

The area of farmland has been intensively used from the late medieval period onwards, and a scheduled monument settlement and prehistoric hut circle settlement just 870m north east of Washfold Farm, known locally as Old Bellerby or T’old Ruins.

Applicant and fourth generation farmer David Metcalfe told members the museum would feature the family’s vintage tractor collection and would initially be open to groups for visits, but the attraction could develop.

The meeting was told the development would create a central custom-built space for its staff as its office spaces are spread out, crowded and with inefficient flow and poor access. The proposal also states the firm needs capacity at the offices to support future growth.

The expanding farm complex is within open countryside and as the site area is about 7,780 square metres it was classed as a major development. However, officers told the meeting the new buildings would only partially be visible from nearby roads.

Officers said the proposal was justified in the location to support the needs of Washfold Farm and that it would not significantly harm the character of the countryside, and that any harm would be minimised through significant tree planting and landscaping.

The meeting heard councillors highlight how many larger enterprises in the Yorkshire Dales saw workers commute up to 30 miles before heralding the Washfold Farm business for building accommodation on site for farm workers

Hawes councillor Jill McMullon said: “It is without doubt an exemplary business, adds great value to the area, particularly with employment, and the museum is a fantastic idea.”

After being questioned why the proposed development did not feature solar panels, Mr Metcalfe said the farm had an anaerobic digestor, so already generated all its own electricity and exported to the National Grid.

He added Northern Powergrid had ruled no further electricity could be added to its existing line, so the farm would need to bigger cable installed, at a cost of £2m.