Solution sought to allow Swaledale barn conversion

The field barn east of Grinton, which it is proposed to convert into a farmworker's home.

Efforts are being made to finally reach an agreement which would allow a farming family to turn a Swaledale barn into a home.

A plan to convert Shoemaker Barn, near Grinton, was initially approved in October 2018, only for it to be rejected two months later as Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) members were warned by officers that approving the scheme could seriously undermine the authority’s ability to insist developers follow its planning policy.

A revised scheme by the applicants, Chris and Laura Porter, to convert the barn was then approved three months ago, against the advice of the authority’s officers.

It was passed on the condition that the converted barn be tied to the landholdings of the farm business as it had been argued the home was essential to enable the couple to tend to overwinter pedigree rams and lamb ewes in the spring.

The meeting heard the decision was essential to maintaining the community as well as the future of hill farming, which shapes many of the national park’s landscapes.

An agent for the couple told members: “This authority is aware of the fragility of hill farming and is committed to working with stakeholders to safeguard its future. If members support this application today they will do something positive to address this challenge and send a message to other young people that they are valued and do have a place.

“Chris’s family are responsible for the upkeep of 45km of stone wall, 27 field barns, 1,000 acres of heather moorland, 150 acres of hay meadows. These resources are valued by all who are attracted to our national park. Without the retention of people with the skills to safeguard these landscapes, the Dales that we all love and fight to protect cannot be sustained. ”

However, since the plan was granted, the Porter’s agent has said the legal agreement cannot be completed as the land ownership is complex, the farming business does not own any land at all and that they could not compel the various owners to enter into the planning agreement.

The authority’s officers said that despite attempts to ease the restriction, the Porter’s agent had said land ownership issues would prevent them from completing the agreement, and have asked the planning committee to reconsider if the plan should be approved without the building being tied to the farm business.

However, talks have now taken place between planning officers and the applicant and agent to find a solution.

One proposal is to restrict the occupancy of the house to a person who is employed full time in agriculture on the land at Oxnop, Summer Lodge and Crackpot.

YDNPA said in a statement: “In effect this would be a standard agricultural tie but with an additional restriction ensuring that the dwelling is only used for housing agricultural workers working on the particular land holdings used by the partnership which generate a need for the dwelling at Grinton.

“The agreement would be flexibly worded so that the land identified within the agreement as being used by the partnership could be varied subsequently with the agreement of the authority if the land available to the partnership changes in the future.

“The applicant has agreed to a S106 agreement on this basis.”

Park authority members will be asked to consider the application again this week on this basis.