Plans for a sheep shed on a Swaledale farm have been rejected despite calls for officials to support young farmers.
Members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s planning committee voted seven to five to refuse the application by J Allison and Sons to erect a 54.9m by 13.7m shed to house sheep at Cogden Hall farm, Grinton.
The meeting last week had earlier heard support from the application from park authority member and North Yorkshire county councillor Yvonne Peacock, who said: “We have got to send the right message out that this Yorkshire Dale National Park does encourage young farmers.”
However, other members said they were worried about the appearance of the barn.
Member Mark Corner said: “I have no issue with the need to have a new building on the farm.
“My concern is the location – it literally sticks out like a sore thumb if you look at that schematic. I just feel its in the wrong place.”
The meeting heard that planning officers believed the building would have an “adverse impact upon the scenic beauty of the National Park landscape, would not conserve the character and appearance of the Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Conservation Area and would harm the significance of grade II listed Cogden Hall through intrusion to its natural setting.”
The authority’s member champion for development and Secretary of State appointee Jim Munday agreed with Mr Corner and stated: “This [would be] three and a half metres to the eaves and five and a half metres high. How tall are sheep?”
After the vote Cllr Peacock pointed out that the farmers would need to use tractors in the shed.
The applicant, Stephen Allison, had told the committee that the farm, which supports four households of 13 people and the long term rental of a further six households, had been Marks and Spencers’ Swaledale lamb producers of the year in 2020 and 2021.
They needed to prepare for farm subsidies to halve by 2024 and wanted to introduce environmentally-friendly measures such as not wintering sheep on the moors so as not to poach but protect the land.
He said: “My cousin and I have young families and we are both in our early 30s. The building is of standard width and length for what is necessary to provide sufficient housing to accommodate 336 sheep and their lambs.
“It is important to ensure there is sufficient access to the central passage to feed check and bed up the sheep with a tractor. The site was chosen because that is where the need is and two other farm workers live on site.
“Additionally no other site is available to accommodate the required size.
“We believe the concerns of the adverse impact upon the scenic beauty of the landscape and the harm to Cogden Hall farm are grossly overstated.
“We therefore commissioned a heritage impact assessment which concluded the building would have an entirely acceptable level of impact upon the historic environment.
“We also assisted with the preparation of a visual impact assessment which found the building would have a minimal impact on the landscape.
“The visual impact was a major consideration and much thought was given to the potential effect both on the site and the wider landscape. A landscaping plan has therefore been proposed to plant trees to lessen any impact and to break up its massing from both near and far.”
He disagreed with the statement in the planning officer’s report that the shed would be located on raised ground.
He stated: “The site is in a natural dip and would additionally be further built into the ground. It will not be over dominant and intrusive.”
Richmondshire District councillor Richard Good agreed with him.
He accepted that the shed would be big. But the footpaths around it, he said, were rarely used and there was only a small gap along the B6270 where it might be visible.
He added: “If you are travelling at ten miles an hour you might just see it.”
He did not feel that the planning officer had clearly explained that the sheep needed to come off the moors in winter for environmental reasons which fulfilled one of the requirements of the National Park.
This was an opportunity, he said, to encourage farming and added: “Dales farming is traditional but we have to modernise it [and] this is a great opportunity with a young farming family with lots of new ideas and lots of enthusiasm.”
He asked the committee to remember that although Cogden Hall was a listed building it had been home to a farming family for many years and would remain so.
Supporting his call to approve the application, North Yorkshire County councillor Yvonne Peacock stated: “I was pleased to see this application because for once we have got a young farmer wanting to farm. And not only himself but his whole family and his cousins.”
She pointed out that the YDNPA has a policy of encouraging people to visit the Yorkshire Dales – and that much of the beautiful scenery they came for had been created by farmers. She argued, therefore, that it was in the public interest to encourage farmers. But farmers could not continue to farm as they had in the past.
“We don’t know what the government’s going to come up with – and we know things in the future could be very very difficult. I want to see farmers making their farms viable. If we don’t encourage them now we might find that our beautiful dales will not be [worth] visiting,” she said.
Richmondshire District councillor John Amsden commented: “This is environmental land management. It’s a management tool not just a building. There are lots more buildings a lot more prominent than this one in Swaledale. I think you ought to get Google maps out and have a look. All this government thinks about is tourism and in the next ten years agriculture is going to be in a very sad state. We are going to be importing more food [causing] more pollution.”
After the proposal to approve the application was rejected Cllr Good said that there should have been a site visit so that members could have seen the location for themselves.
One of those who voted against approval was Derek Twine who commented afterwards: “I sense that some of members who voted against would be pleased to a further application at a later date which took note of the issues about the size and the style and the location.”
ARC News service