A major redevelopment of a Middleham racing stables which will see dozens of rural economy jobs created has become the focus of controversy, despite already having been enthusiastically given the thumbs up by councillors.
Racehorse owners’ John and Jess Dance scheme to redevelop 289-acre Manor House Farm in Middleham will be reconsidered by Richmondshire District Council on Wednesday, just a month after being approved subject to no objections being raised over the creation of an underpass to enable walkers to safely cross a new all-weather track.
The proposed scheme at the yard, previously run by classic-winning breeder Lenore ‘Lennie’ Peacock, saw the late inclusion of an underpass for people using a popular footpath near Canaan’s Lane, after North Yorkshire County Council said the proposed gallops crossing it would create a significant hazard.
The path forms part of the Six Dales Trail long distance walk, connecting Middleham with paths along the River Cover and is well used by walkers of all abilities.
However, following the consent, Middleham Town Council has objected to excavating an underpass to run 2.5 metres beneath the gallops, saying it would create a blot of the landscape and would be a disproportionate response to the risk of a collision with a galloping horse.
In its objection, a town council spokesman said: “This footpath is well used by local people, dog walkers and families as well as long distance walkers.
“Opinions within Middleham have been unanimous in rejection of the underpass, describing it as inappropriate in the landscape and out of all proportion to the potential danger of crossing an all-weather track.”
In another objection to the plans, the British Horse Society said the gallops appeared to be uncomfortably close to the route for the safety of horse riders using the bridleway.
A society spokesman added it was “not safe or sensible to suggest that walkers with dogs and children or even adults can safely cross a gallops whilst they are in use, it is a danger to the walkers and to the jockeys and even the racehorses”.
He added: “The sight of galloping race horses coming towards them from the east is very likely to cause issues for riders with horses getting over-excited.”
While the town council has called for staggered, above ground railings as a means of crossing the linear gallop, agents for the Dances and The Jockey Club have highlighted above ground railings have been used at numerous racecourses and training sites, nationally as well as locally around Middleham.
After reviewing evidence about above ground crossings in places such as Newmarket, county council officers said such a scheme should not be approved on safety grounds as a direct comparison with other sites could not be made.
They have concluded an above ground crossing would pose a significant new additional risk and deter people from using the popular footpath.
In a report to next week’s planning committee meeting, officers have recommended the yard redevelopment includes the creation of an underpass as “it would be the safest solution to the crossing of the gallop”.