A young couple’s request to convert a barn at Hawes into their family home was turned down by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s planning committee on Tuesday June 11.
Ashley Iveson told the committee: “I ask you to give me and my family an opportunity to live and work on the farm holding that’s been part of my family for generations – and an opportunity to live in a town that we love for the rest of our lives. I would not like to raise my children anywhere else.”
Hawes and High Abbotside Parish Council and North Yorkshire County Councillor John Blackie supported him in the assertion that the barn could not accurately be described as in the “open countryside” as it was close to Brandymires and the caravan park on Hardraw Road, and to the business park, Hawes Fire Station, the water works and the sewage works. It is even closer to Mr Iveson’s father’s lairage agricultural shed.
Mr Iveson said he was particularly disappointed at the way in which the planning officer had criticised this large shed. She had reported: “The shed is in an unfortunate position and is a visual detractor in the area. It is important that this does not set a precedent for further harmful development.”
Mr Iveson commented that the Authority had given planning permission for the shed: “It seems to me that the officer is using her obvious dislike of the shed against my completely separate development,” he said.
The Hawes and High Abbotside Parish representative, Jill McMullon, told the committee that she met many in the community through her work with the Upper Dales Community Partnership. She said she had previously served as a Richmondshire District councillor and had chaired that council twice and been a member of its planning committee for ten years.
She said: “At Richmondshire District Council we always tried to take the local community with us at planning. Now that’s not always possible but our track record was far, far better than yours.”
The Iveson family was, she said, a perfect example of the young family the National Park needed to retain if there was to be a bright future for the local community in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales.“What is the point of the National Park making a priority of retaining and attracting young families to the Upper Dales, shouting this from the roof tops, and then coming forward with a report which seems to go out of its way to scotch the aspirations of a couple and their children to live in our community for the rest of their lives?”
She added that the report completely missed the point that the barn and the lairage shed belonged to the same farming business. “This application is a test of the real intention of the National Park Authority – are you going to walk the walk, or are you just talking the talk?”
Committee member Ian McPherson, however, said that once again there was a conflict on the committee between personal views and policy. He quoted the planning officer’s report which stated: “The barn in question is a field barn surrounded by agricultural land. It is not located within the settlement boundary of Hawes as defined in the Local Plan. It is not within a group of buildings. It is not a roadside location (it is approximately 90m from the Brunt Acre Industrial Estate road) and it is not served by an existing track. For these reasons the development does not comply with policy.
“The dwelling would not provide rural workers accommodation nor be an affordable property.” Mr Iveson had emphasised that, if converted, it would be a local occupancy dwelling, not a holiday let.
In her report the planning officer stated: “The barn in question being located immediately adjacent to the Pennine Way and within walking distance of the amenities and facilities of Hawes town centre would make an ideal camping barn. There is therefore an alternative economic use for the barn that would not require the level of intervention proposed by this development.”
Cllr Blackie commented: “I am bewildered about the suggestion [for] a camping barn. A camping barn, in my view, would create for more upheaval in the landscape than a domestic dwelling. It would also attract cars to be parked indiscriminately in the industrial area.”
He pointed out that in May the committee had approved a barn conversion where a 190m track was required to provide access to a road and reminded the members that there were different interpretations of the Authority’s policies to those of the planning officer. “Today I think she has got it wrong,” he said.
Cllr Blackie, Allen Kirkbride, a parish council member of the committee, and Hawes and High Abbotside Parish Council emphasised that the barn was on a farm holding and that the proposed extension would provide an office for Mr Iveson who works from home as a specialist horse racing reporter as well as helping his father with the lairage business.
Committee member Jim Munday said he had read the parish council’s submission with great interest. “It’s full of character, it’s full of Dales’ interest, it’s got a hero and a heroine, and there’s a lot there which one empathises with.”
But he also felt it perpetuated the myth that the Authority refused many applications for barn conversions. “We’ve approved 110 barn conversions in the last three years and refused only nine. We like to say Yes and we usually do,” he added. He agreed with the planning officer that the committee should refuse Ashley and Katie Iveson’s application.
After seven members voted to refuse the application with four wishing to approve it, Cllr Blackie noted that, following the local elections, two Richmondshire District councillors had not yet been appointed to the Authority’s planning committee. He, therefore, asked for the decision to be deferred to July so that the two new members might have a chance to consider the issue.
The legal officer Clare Bevan said, however, that the committee had already decided not to approve the application.
After the meeting Julie Martin, who chaired the meeting, stated: “I feel very sorry for the applicants in this case. We have a flexible policy, which has already seen more than 150 traditional buildings converted to residential and business uses. “It was very clear that this proposal would not meet the criteria set out in the policy – not least because it has no access to a road. Whoever has been advising them has really let them down. I strongly urge people to please come and talk to our planning service at the earliest opportunity, so as to avoid this sort of disappointment and expense.
“Not all barns are suitable for conversion, particularly those away from the roadside in prominent positions. If there’s a doubt about whether or not a conversion is within policy, pre-application planning advice will clear it up before any expectations or hopes are raised and before any money is spent on professional services.”
Mrs Martin (a trustee of the Friends of the Dales) was deputy chair of the planning committee until Caroline Thornton-Berry stood down as a Richmondshire District councillor.