Wensleydale holiday park owner facing “eye-watering fine” for flouting planning rules

Some of the unauthorised camping pods at the holiday park. File pic.

A businessman who “gamed the planning system” by installing glamping pods, hot tubs and hard standing in a protected Yorkshire Dales beauty spot is facing a hefty fine.

David Khan, 64, who runs The Lodge Company North Ltd, bought a campsite at Bainbridge Ings in Hawes in 2017 and turned it into a holiday park with hard standing for touring caravans, motor homes and static caravans.

The permanent structures were in contravention of planning restrictions in place to protect the national park, York Crown Court heard this week.

Khan and his company, of which he is a director, repeatedly flouted four ensuing enforcement notices issued by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority demanding that he restore the land to its natural state and remove the offending structures.

But the “stubborn” landowner still refused to comply and appealed some of the notices.

He and his Lodge Company North business were each charged with five counts of breaching an enforcement notice, but they denied the offences, only to plead guilty to all matters a week before a trial was due to be held.

At the sentence hearing on Wednesday, prosecutor Piers Riley-Smith said that Khan and his holiday lets company breached the first enforcement notice after erecting 10 glamping pods, eight of which were too large and of a different design and layout to that agreed with the authorities when they were granted planning permission in 2018.

Khan appealed the notice, asking for permission to keep the pods as they were, but a planning inspector rejected his bid in January 2020 “due to the “size and layout” of the accommodation and said the pods would have to be removed because they would have a seriously harmful effect on the landscape.

“As of today, there has been poor compliance (with the notice) in that… two pods still remain on the field and the hard standing remains,” said Mr Riley-Smith.

Two more pods remained on the “wider land”, although four others had been removed.

“In December 2023, all the pods were still being rented out and generating income,” added Mr Riley-Smith.

Income from the eight pods was just under £582,000 over a period of about four years, but expenses and set-up costs meant that Khan and the company were operating this side of the business at a loss.

However, the site also had a camping field and there was also permission for one of the fields to be used seasonally for touring caravans which proved to be a “lucrative exercise”, resulting in pre-tax profits of between £116,000 and £436,000 between 2020 and 2023.

There were two further breaches of the same notice in that in one of the fields, Khan only had permission for tents but erected a static caravan and a timber cabin used for staff accommodation and a washroom.

“All of this is to facilitate the use of the field for touring caravans and mobile homes,” said the prosecutor.

Despite “ongoing correspondence” between Khan and park authority officials between June 2019 and April 2020, there was “not even an attempt” to comply with the requirements and there had still been “no compliance whatsoever”.

“The hard standing and some caravans are (still) there,” said Mr Riley-Smith.

“The field is still being rented out for caravans.”

This had provided a further £34,751 income, minus set-up costs.

In a separate field on the land off Bainbridge Lane, Khan had permission to host touring caravans between April and the end of October in 2019 only, but by June of that year, he had installed four luxury log cabins, fencing and hot tubs.

Mr Riley-Smith said a site inspection last week revealed that all four log cabins were still in situ and still being rented out, despite there being no planning permission for such use. Income from renting the log cabins was £336,413, minus expenses.

He said the offences amounted to a “deliberate attempt to game the planning system in one of the most protected areas in the country” and that Khan had shown “no remorse whatsoever”.

Overall yearly profits for Khan and his “overarching company” at Bainbridge Ings between 2020 and 2023 ranged from £116,000 to £436,000, with The Lodge Company North itself posting annual profits of up to £51,000.

Khan’s wider commercial interests meant he had a taxable yearly income of about £100,000 in the three years to 2023, when it dropped to £26,000.

Khan, of Templand Lane, Allithwaite, Cumbria, also ran a holiday park in the Lake District through a separate company which was convicted last year of three counts of breaching an enforcement notice by the erection of an “unauthorised residential unit”.

Defence barrister Nick Johnson said Khan was a successful businessman with charitable inclinations “but he can be stubborn”.

He said Khan’s “belligerent” response to the enforcement notices was at odds with his financial donations to “laudable community projects (to the tune of) tens of thousands” and he and his wife had fostered many children.

Judge Sean Morris said the fact that Khan had still not complied with the notices, despite the case reaching court, was an “extremely aggravating feature”.

He said for that reason he would defer the sentence to see if Khan would come good on his promise to rectify the situation.

He said Khan must start complying with the requirements of the four notices and remove all the offending structures by July 1 or he would “throw the book” at him.

He told Khan: “You are your own worst enemy. This pig-headedness has got to stop.

“I’m going to throw the book at you if you don’t comply with this deferral and I will fine you an eye-watering amount of money.”

Khan and the Lodge Company North’s sentence was deferred to the week commencing November 18.

In 2019, the late John Blackie, then a Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority member and chair of Hawes and High Abbotside Parish Council, described the camping pods as “abominations”.

Reacting to this week’s hearing, Jim Munday, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority Member Champion for Development Management, said: “As far back as 2019 the national park authority planning committee voted to begin this enforcement action against the owner of Bainbridge Ings campsite in the parish of Hawes and it is regrettable that, despite numerous requests for matters to be satisfactorily resolved, the issue has dragged on for as long as it has.

“Enforcement action is always a last resort for the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and is carried out to address harm caused by unauthorised development.

“This has been a long-running case, which has used up considerable public resources, and it is our hope, following the hearing, that all outstanding enforcement notices will now be fully complied with”.

3 Comments

  1. Totally unacceptable behaviour by this man , an example needs to be made .

  2. My mother always said, “if you have not got anything good to say about somebody, don’t say anything” .
    I’m going to follow her advice, and not make any comment regarding
    this “gentleman” ? Believe me it takes an awful lot of self control on my part!

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