Plans drawn up to redevelop historic Middleham racing yard

Manor House Farm.

The new owners of an historic farm and racing yard overlooking the Yorkshire Dales National Park have revealed an ambition to bulldoze the buildings and build an array of modern sporting facilities.

Racehorse owners John and Jess Dance said their proposal to redevelop 289-acre Manor House Farm in Middleham, would see the farmhouse, agricultural buildings and stables demolished replaced with buildings for racehorse training, hospitality and housing for some of the yard’s 35 new employees.

Planning documents lodged with Richmondshire District Council state the farm, which was previously owned by classic-winning breeder Lenore ‘Lennie’ Peacock, who died in 2019 aged 97, would feature an indoor riding school and gallops away from the nearby public ones used by other Middleham yards.

The move has come of a surprise to some in the industry as last September, Mr Dance announced he would significantly cut back the number of horses he had in training having become frustrated by “a multitude of things in racing”.

However, the prominent owner has since bought the Middleham farm, which was being marketed for around £2m, and has recruited Sir Michael Stoute’s assistant James Horton to be trainer at the yard, where the last northern-trained Derby winner, Dante, was born and raised.

The farm also has historical links with Middleham with William’s Hill, an 11th century motte and bailey castle, on the holding. The scheduled monument is the predecessor to Middleham Castle, the childhood home of Richard III.

Mr Dance said planning officers had responded “very positively” to the proposal to convert the west side of the farm into a top class training facility and to install a gallops and rail canter to give his yard variety to the public gallops that other Middleham yards use.

He said the east side of the farm would be used as a development stud for homebred yearlings.

The planning documents state: “As with all sporting facilities as time moves on the facilities need to improve and one needs to keep pace with the national trends if the yard is to be successful in the sport and attract owners to keep Middleham on par with other training centres around the country.

“The majority of the proposed buildings are necessary for the welfare of the horses and staff, ease of maintenance etc. Senior staff have 24-hour access to the horses and their jobs are permanent posts, they not only need to live by their horses but need to take them to race meetings and be available if animals are sick.

“As a result we hope that the benefits of our planned investment will extend beyond our home farm and facility, but into the wider Middleham and northern training communities.”

Community leaders said they were yet to study the plans.