Converting roadside traditional barns was heralded as a vital element of the new Yorkshire Dales Local Plan in 2016 and has become one of the most successful ways of providing new homes for local people. But now it would appear that policy is at a watershed, writes Pip Land from the Association of Rural Communities.
The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) has reported that of the 79 proposals for new homes made between December 2016 and October 2017 50 were for converting roadside barns and other buildings.
Not everyone is happy about that. In his letter to the Authority’s chief executive, David Butterworth, last year Mark Corner, the chairman of the Friends of the Dales (formerly the Yorkshire Dales Society) stated:
“The definition of ‘roadside’ barns seems to permit development along very minor roads or tracks into ‘open country’. In some cases this will have an adverse effect on the Dales landscape… We are concerned at the potential cumulative impact of barn conversions on the landscape and the attractiveness of villages.”
And this month a planning officer warned that if the YDNPA planning committee approved a proposal to convert a barn at Oughtershaw it would set a new benchmark for the policy.
In addition, the committee has to consider the implications of a planning inspector overturning its decision to refuse permission for the conversion of a barn between Starbotton and Kettlewell.
The inspector ruled that converting the barn (Tug Gill Lathe) would not have a detrimental impact upon the character and appearance of the National Park.
At the planning meeting in May 2017 the chairman of the Authority, Craven District councillor Carl Lis, commented that if permission was granted for Tug Gill Lathe others could seek approval to convert barns in Wharfedale which were not as well hidden. “This is a step too far,” he said.
Another committee member, Ian McPherson, remarked: “Once we set the precedent of allowing roadside barns in that kind of landscape [to be converted] then, in my view we might just as well go home because we are not fulfilling the first statutory purpose that the National Park is basically all about.”
The planning inspector, however, stated: “I have considered the Council’s [YDNPA’s] argument that the grant of planning permission would create a precedent for other proposals. However, no directly similar sites were put forward and the particular characteristics and location of the site are readily distinguishable.
“In my opinion the proposed additions and alterations comprise the minimum necessary to enable the conversion to proceed and in other regards the external appearance of the appeal site would remain largely unaltered. The proposal would conserve the landscape and scenic beauty of the National Park and would also preserve the character and appearance of the existing building.”
Recently the Authority underlined the necessity of creating more homes for local occupancy. It stated that new homes will support the economy, Dales’ communities and the facilities they rely on, such as schools.
Its objective, according to the Local Plan, is to increase the supply and range of new housing (including affordable and local occupancy) by 55 dwellings per annum.
It explained: “The target of 55 .. is almost twice the projected rate of household growth up until 2030 but still only half the estimated shortfall of affordable housing. It is, however, equivalent to the average rate of actual housing completion over the last 12 years, so is firmly rooted in deliverability”
In its draft management plan, however, the authority states it will support the completion of at least 325 new dwellings in a range of tenures, sizes and types by 2023. It accepts that this is an ambitious target which is well above the “objectively assessed need”.
It notes: “Delivery will be challenging as developable land is almost wholly privately owned, is not freely available or commands unrealistic expectations of value. The focus remains on delivering housing that is affordable or satisfies local needs.”
The figures show that the one way that local needs are being met is by allowing more traditional barns to be converted into dwellings if they can be defined as “roadside” and without any “significant” extensions.
One of the barn conversions that the Friends of the Dales objected to was that at Bouldershaw in Arkengarthdale last year. The chairman of Arkengarthdale Parish Council, Stephen Stubbs, told the planning committee: “We have to start protecting and developing the Dale now and we have to find affordable accommodation for tomorrow’s generations. Part of the remit of the Yorkshire Dales National Park has to be to assist us in resolving this difficult dilemma.”
The Association of Rural Communities (ARC) has supported and campaigned for the conversion of traditional barns for local occupancy since its inception in 1995. Its late founder and president, Tom Knowles, stated in 1998: “The Yorkshire Dales should be a prosperous area with young people able to have families in thriving villages and towns, and able to earn a living without having to leave their local communities. The most important issue facing the YDNPA is how they can improve the local economy which is necessary to keep the younger generations employed in the area. Instead they are being driven out as there are too many second homes and holiday homes.”
ARC News Service