Wensleydale parish councillors object to plans for former Methodist chapel

The former Methodist chapel in Aysgarth.

Aysgarth and District Parish Council has strongly objected to part of the former Methodist chapel in Aysgarth being used for accommodation.

At its April meeting it was stated that neither the parish council, Aysgarth Institute nor local residents had been consulted about the community use of the former chapel. It was sold at below market value due to a legal covenant confining it to community use.

In her application to use no more than 30 per cent of the building for accommodation, the owner, Rebecca Watkins, told the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority: “I purchased the site for the primary use of the site for the community, with an element of ancillary accommodation for myself as a caretaker, and for artisans/exhibitors/experts delivering training and education.

“The intended high usage of the site by the community not just for educational reasons but also as a public hall delivering community/cultural events, means that an on-site caretaker is required for this community venture to be a success, one who can: look after the building; open and shut the building to the public; and curate, promote and deliver an exciting programme of educational, cultural and community focused activities/events.”

In its objection the parish council stated: ‘The Institute in Aysgarth (formerly a Reading Room) provides community use facilities and does not have nor need living accommodation for caretakers, artisans or exhibitors.

‘There were concerns from local residents about noise, parking and access to residential homes near the chapel. There were also concerns about a social media post from the planning applicant which quotes ‘New Home, New Adventures’. ”

Emergency Plan. – Following a discussion about the practicalities of the parish council owning and being responsible for generators it was decided to hire these if they were needed in an emergency situation.

At the February meeting Joe Rushbrook from North Yorkshire County’s resilience and emergencies team explained that he was  involved in assisting various local communities with their Emergency Plans including Grinton, Arkengarthdale, Preston Under Scar, Low Row and Gunnerside.

These communities had created ‘hubs’ intended to be a short-term arrangement in an emergency whilst the authorities were notified, and families stepped in to look after relatives. Some of the communities have installed generators. He said satellite communication devices will be rolled out locally and that enhanced walkie talky with an extended range should not be a problem for the parishes.

The councillors explained that the parish council included four parishes with Aysgarth considered to be the central village. They noted that Bishopdale was an ambulance route and had very poor internet.

Mr Rusbrook  was told about the floods on the A684 from Aysgarth to Hawes and diversion via single-width Thornton Rust Road. Flooding in Thornton Rust was also highlighted.

It was agreed at the April meeting that there would be a special meeting  to discuss the  siting of sandbags at Aysgarth and Thornton Rust Institutes.

Coronation mugs. – The 72 commemorative mugs ordered by the parish council to be distributed to children in the parishes to mark the coronation of King Charles III had arrived. The total cost was £584.40 minus the £174 awarded by Richmondshire District Council. The mugs will be paid for and  distributed by the village halls and institutes.

Rock Garden. – It was reported that the parish council had received a donation from the Upper  Dales Area Partnership towards the electrical costs for the Edwardian Rock Garden at Aysgarth.

On May 1 Cllrs John Dinsdale and Peter Windle and an Aysgarth resident will point the stonework in the waterfall at the garden to stop it leaking.

Bishopdale Bridge. – North Yorkshire County councillor Yvonne Peacock reported that the work to resolve problems at Bishopdale Bridge would be carried in the financial year 2023 to 2024.

Next meeting. – This is in Aysgarth Institute at 7.30pm on Thursday May 25.


  1. If the Parish council want it for community use then the community should buy it. It’s makes no sense for someone to buy it, pour money into it and it’s upkeep to essentially become a caretaker for the property. The Parish Council and Methodist circuit have turned the building into a White Elephant

  2. I trust the coronation mugs will be given only to those children who want them. Not all of the king’s ‘subjects’ are monarchists.

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