Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) has described as “nonsense” a claim it is making “insipid efforts” to retain young families in the Dales.
Hawes and High Abbotside Parish Council has issued a statement criticising the authority after its planning committee rejected several applications to turn barns into housing.
The parish council says it plans to issue a ‘statement of serious community concern’ following its next meeting on July 15, when a vote of no confidence in YDNPA could also be taken.
It accuses the authority of being “woefully short of the mark” in trying its very best to retain young families” in the parish and the wider Upper Dales.
The parish council has hit out after the latest refusal when planning committee members rejected an application by local couple Ashley and Katie Iveson to convert a barn on land near Hawes.
The planning officer told committee members the barn was in open countryside, but supporters of the application point out that it was close to a large lairage sheep shed, Hawes Industrial Estate and the town’s sewage works.
The council has named three other young families whose applications to convert barns in the Upper Dales have recently been refused.
Cllr John Blackie, chairman of the parish council, said: “In my 22 years as the county councillor for the Upper Dales I do not think I have come across such open resentment within our local communities to a series of planning decisions so fundamentally hostile to our bright future, and our very best social and economic interests.
“The YDNPA is merely talking the talk rather than walking the walk in its insipid efforts to retain our young families – its commitment is all in the shop window and nothing in the stock room.”
But in a strongly-word response to the criticism, which says it is “nonsense” to suggest the authority is not taking the retention of young families in the Dales seriously, Jim Munday, YDNPA member champion for development management, said he hoped people attending the parish council meeting next week would “hold Cllr Blackie to account”.
Mr Munday said the authority had given approval for 122 barn conversions for residential use since planning policy was made more flexible in October 2015, with just ten applications being turned down — five of them in Cllr Blackie’s area.
He added: “As someone who voted in favour of the barns conversions policy, Mr Blackie would have known that each of the five applications were outside of that policy.
“Startlingly, however, none of the applicants in these cases sought pre-application planning advice.
“In a handful of cases, barns away from the roadside have been approved for conversion, but only because the applicants made the most of pre-app advice on landscaping and design.
“The authority is approving barn conversions which conserve the intrinsic value of the building and support communities and the local economy.
“But we cannot have a policy that says ‘anybody who is young or has a family can build a house wherever they like’.
“Under the current policy some barns will be unsuitable for conversion. The Yorkshire Dales is a farmed landscape and Mr Blackie should know how important it is to conserve that.”
He added: “The idea that the national park authority is not taking seriously the need to retain and attract young residents is nonsense.
“The authority is very keen for new homes to be built, especially given the fact that Mr Blackie and others have opposed action to try to limit the growing number of second homes in the national park.
“It’s great news that 17 new houses are now being built in West Witton.
“But there are still over 500 housing permissions or allocations in the Local Plan area that have yet to be built. For example, there are allocated housing development sites for 23 homes in Hawes itself.”
Following the refusal of the Iveson’s Brandymires application it emerged that one of the members of the planning committee had voted against the development despite losing her seat at the May elections.
Labour councillor Margaret Pattison has this week responded to claims that she had acted “unusually” by attending last month’s planning committee and voting, despite no longer being a Lancaster City councillor, which she had represented on the park authority.
All major decisions made by the park authority are decided by its members, who either represent council’s whose areas overlap with the national park or are appointed by the Government.
However, as it can take some time to replace members on the park authority following elections, former members are allowed to continue representing authorities for up to three months if their replacement is not in place.
Cllr Blackie said while he could not recall a former member of a council ever exercising their right to vote at the park authority, he had been aghast to see Richmondshire District Council’s new representative, John Amsden, refused the chance to vote.
Mr Amsden, who has served on the district council’s planning committee for eight years, was told he needed planning committee training before being allowed to vote on the park authority.
He said Ms Pattison’s vote had helped see the fourth barn conversion plan for a family in the Upper Dales being refused by the authority since December.
Cllr Blackie said: “It stinks and it really has angered communities across the Yorkshire Dales, in places such as Hawes, Grinton and Appersett.
“If one member had turned up in time and without Margaret Pattison’s vote it would have been 6-6. If John Amsden had been allowed to vote the result could have been very different.
“The debate at the July meeting of the parish council will be hard-hitting, as we feel completely let down by the YDNPA, and anger will spill into fury if there is any proof that there has been clear manipulation of the members who voted down the planning application at Brandymires.”
Cllr Pattison, who remains a member of Lancashire County Council, said she continued to serve on the planning committee to ensure Lancaster City Council was represented while it appointed a new member for the authority.
She said she intended to attend the park authority’s planning committee tomorrow, adding: “I would never break the rules and never sit on a committee if I thought I was doing something wrong. I love going to the meetings.
“The experience of the Yorkshire Dales has been absolutely brilliant.”
A park authority spokesman said: “The member from Lancaster City Council was entitled to vote at the June meeting, while Mr Amsden was not.
“The rules on how national park authorities are run haven’t changed in well over a decade.”