A move by an award-winning business to respond to the “huge boom” in cycle tourism has won the support of planners, despite being met with objections.
Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority officers have recommended a scheme to expand the Dales Bike Centre in the Upper Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Barns and Walls Conservation Area be approved just days after the Tour de Yorkshire visits the area.
Officers said since the Dales Bike Centre in Fremington, near Reeth, opened in 2009 cycle tourism had “increased dramatically with the Tour de France and the subsequent emphasis on cycle tourism”, adding that the new family-friendly Swale Trail cycle route would further demand.
The centre’s owners, Stuart and Brenda Price, are seeking permission to build a single-storey accommodation block, another building for a sauna, showers and additional bicycle storage and extend their cafe from 23 to 70 covers.
Mr Price said: “Our current bunk accommodation although high quality and very popular is not meeting the expectations and requirements for this new sector within the cycle tourism market. We believe that currently Dales Bike Centre and the Yorkshire Dales are being overlooked as they don’t have the facilities this new customer is seeking.”
Consequently, he said the scheme would include features such as decontamination areas in the bedrooms for cyclists to clean up after rides.
Alongside increasing staff numbers at the centre, it is hoped the move would potential to boost visitor numbers out of the tourist season, which is seen by park bosses as key to boosting the local economy.
Mr Price said: “Cycling and more specifically mountain biking is a year round activity. By improving our accommodation offer and making their stay as comfortable as possible we will be able to attract visitors throughout the winter months.”
However, nearby residents have claimed the proposed expansion is inappropriate in the “peaceful historic village location” which lies within medium and high probability zones for flooding.
An officers’ report to the authority’s planning committee next week states objectors believe “the design of the proposal would be more akin to a ranch or motel and would be in appropriate and out of character in the Dales”, and lead to more traffic and disturbance in Fremington.
The report dismisses those claims and other concerns, such as the buildings would lead to increases in flooding and flood neighbouring properties.
The report states while the proposed redevelopment is on a relatively large scale, it would not result in a significantly harmful impact on the national park landscape or heritage assets.
It adds: “There is little that can be done through the planning process to control issues such as guests of the bike centre visiting the local pubs in Reeth and returning late at night as such behaviour could occur with any visitor accommodation.”
The report states previous planning conditions, such as prohibiting the use of the bike centre by motorcycles and the café by people that are not customers of the bike centre, had not been enforced, but no complaints had been received before the latest plans were submitted.
The officers’ report concludes: “The proposal would enable the expansion of this important local business which would increase employment in the locality and contribute to the second statutory purpose of the