Planners refuse family’s bid to restore remote Swaledale cottage

The long abandoned property and other historic buildings at West Stonesdale Picture: Google.

Members of Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority have voted against a young farming family’s scheme to reoccupy a Victorian property in one of the most remote parts of the national park, despite widespread concerns for the future of agriculture and over the retention of younger people in the area.

An online meeting of the authority heard the application was “very significant” and a statement by applicants Mark and Linda Rukin, who said their goal was to continue living and working in Swaledale, whilst raising their children.

They said with the future of farming being uncertain, they had been encouraged to diversify their Swaledale farm business and hoped the re-occupation of the house close to the Pennine Way at West Stonesdale, near Keld, “would help to provide an additional income to allow us to continue farming traditionally in the uplands”.

It said: “As custodians of the countryside, we’d hate to have to watch the former dwelling fall into a worse state of disrepair and become an eyesore, which we know will happen without some attention, but without a use we just cannot justify any spending on the property.”

The couple were supported by Hawes and Upper Swaledale councillor Jill McMullon, who said they deserved “great admiration for having the determination and drive to take on a farm and all the work that goes with it”.

However, Richard Graham, the authority’s head of development management, said the decision on the scheme was finely balanced as while the scheme would see the conservation of traditional buildings, the properties’ heritage significance was not great.

He said the applicants had also failed to answer a number of questions, such as whether the plans would adversely affect wildlife.

Recommending the plans be refused, he added the house would need to be connected to services, which would entail providing 500 metres of electricity line, but it was “not clear that the very high cost or feasibility” of taking the cables underground had been investigated.

Authority member John Amsden, a farmer and Richmondshire councillor, said no farmer would spend money maintaining such stone buildings unless it would boost their business.

He added as the authority was aiming to enhance the Swaledale and Arkengarthdale barns and walls conservation area, it was “ridiculous letting them fall down”.

Ahead of members voting against the scheme, the planning committee’s chair and cultural heritage champion Julie Martin, said: “My underlying concern is that this is an extremely remote area, well above Keld, which is in itself a very remote part of the park, so re-introducing activity right up there on the edge of the moor would definitely have landscape impact.”

After the meeting the chair added: “This was a very difficult application to consider.  As is often the case, Members were torn between wanting to support a farm business to develop, whilst recognising their wider responsibility to guide development in ways that help to keep the National Park a special place for the nation.

“It’s a recurring challenge and one that we will continue to face up to.

“If we’d been provided with the detail we needed to assess it properly, the decision may well have been different”.

“We would welcome the resubmission of a better proposal with all the information that we need to ensure this beautiful landscape and wildlife are not damaged as a result.”


  1. Please could someone support this family in the resubmission of the application. It would make more sense if they had received that support prior to decision instead of the planners making this potentially predetermined decision beforehand
    It must be so stressful for this family and costly this process
    Support is needed to keep this family in the community please help them

    • I can see the family’s idea
      But if this planning is granted it will set a precedent for other buildings & there no two ways if this is granted the character of this special unique place is going to be
      eroded for ever , well done to the planning they must resist such applications to protect this precious area

  2. As a complete neutral and as one who lives outside the national park these sort of decisions do make you wonder whether the Park officials want to fossilise the place.
    If the Yorkshire shepherdess was attempting to do the same with the property she lives in now, you do wonder whether the officials would disallow that as well. Everything already built in the park that’s there now, was new once. There has to be a certain amount of change. Park officials would do well to remember that.

  3. Please let them try and help them we in need off farmers especially as we’re leaving the EU at the end of this year

  4. I was a County Councillor for Pembrokeshire County Council (1999 – 2000)and noticed that a lot of National Park policies are out of date. They know it’s common sense to allow a dwelling to be rectified to its former glory for a start, and it would enhance wild life such as house sparrow, swallow etc. So therefore the National Park should consider applications such as in this case get approval before it will be to late.

  5. I think its about time the National Park was disbanded. I can’t think of onything
    good that it does.

  6. Does seem an odd decision when the park officials bang on about sustainability, retaining young families etc etc. Would have thought this was an ideal opportunity to prove they mean what they say. They have no trouble supporting new housing plans ruining small villages in the Park on the pretense these new builds will attract local families. Of course it won’t and they have no control on who buys the houses, where as in this case they are a local young family and understand and appreciate the unique landscape we have!

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