By Betsy Everett
Concerns that new rules governing barn conversions could change the Dales landscape have been expressed by a charity set up 35 years ago to protect and enhance the region.
Mark Corner, chairman of Friends of the Dales, formerly the Yorkshire Dales Society, told the annual general meeting that since planning rules had been relaxed to allow more conversions to homes and holiday lets, there had been “a rush of applications.”
The role of the Friends was, in part, to balance the demands of housing needs and conservation.
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“In many cases we support the conversion of roadside barns, but there has been a rush of applications for conversions and we are concerned they might change the landscape if they are not controlled,” said Mr Corner.
The society, which monitors all planning applications to the national park authority, had reviewed and responded to more than 600 in the year to March, he added, objecting to or supporting the most significant.
The work of the Friends of the Dales needed to be much more widely understood, as they also campaigned on vital issues such as affordable housing for local people, good public transport links, schools, protection of barns and dry stone walls, funds for farmers, and other aspects of rural life.
Mr Corner said since the campaign to raise membership and awareness started in the summer they had already recruited 120 new members and had established a network of “ambassadors” throughout the region.
“We need to recruit around 150 new members each year, to make up for the inevitable losses, and we also need to find new business partners and more ambassadors to support our work,” he said. They also needed to encourage people to remember the Friends of the Dales in their will.
The change of name to friends of the Dales – although the registered name of the charity would continue to be the Yorkshire Dales Society – more accurately reflected what the organisation does.
“We want to be able to say to non-members that if you care for this special place and want to help protect it, then become a Friend of the Dales,” Mr Corner wrote in the annual review.
Of the many activities throughout the year, one had been a litter-pick: the most common item of litter being banana skins. “Contrary to what many people think, they don’t rot,” said Mr Corner.
He paid tribute to founder member of the society, Colin Speakman, who had retired as a director, but who would continue as a “roving ambassador” in his role as vice president, and to Fleur Speakman who had also retired having edited the Yorkshire Dales Review, the quarterly magazine, for 35 years. Sasha Heseltine was the new editor and welcomed new ideas on what the magazine should contain.
Sir Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, had accepted an invitation to become president of the society, and Kyle Blue, Tim Hancock and Marion Temple were welcomed as new trustees. Be found
The new website of friends of the Dales is https://www.friendsofthedales.org.uk