An ARC News Service report on the meeting of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority ‘s (YDNPA) planning committee on September 10 2019. Items discussed were: conversion of former Methodist chapel at Bainbridge; 6 Finkle Street at Sedbergh; conversion of upper storeys of a shop at Grassington; and extensions to a house at Cracoe.
Pip Pointon reports on the YDNPA meetings on a voluntary basis as part of the Association of Rural Communities commitment to local democracy in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
The conversion of the former chapel at Bainbridge into two two-bedroom affordable rented dwellings for perpetuity was described by Julie Greenslade, the circuit administrator for the North Yorkshire Dales Methodist Circuit as being a pilot scheme for their churches throughout the country.
“We have learnt a lot from this application,” she said following the unanimous decision at the planning committee to approve it.
Richmondshire District councillor John Amsden commented: “I think it is a very good proposal because all round this area Methodist chapels are being sold off for holiday cottages or second homes. This is being kept for locals.”
The planning officer reported that residents and Bainbridge Parish Council were very concerned about the acute shortage of parking especially as the former chapel does not have any designated parking spaces.
“When the primary school is opening and closing it is chaotic down the back Syke – you can’t park anywhere. But what are you going to do with [the building]?”
Some residents had suggested that the railings and a stone staircase should be removed to provide a parking area. The planning officer, however, stated: “The external staircase is considered to be a key architectural feature of the building and historically provided the public route into the chapel. Its loss would have a detrimental effect on the character of this heritage asset and the resulting car parking space would be… deficient.”
She described the proposed conversion as being sympathetic and that it had been amended to ensure that neighbouring properties were not overlooked. She added that it went beyond the policy requirement for local occupancy dwelling. This is because the Methodist Circuit will continue to own the building and will allocate accommodation to those in affordable housing need in conjunction with Richmondshire District Council.
At the beginning of the debate the chairman, Julie Martin, stated: “I would like to declare an interest. There has been a comment in support of the application, I believe, by the Friends of the Dales, the charity of which I am a trustee. However, I don’t think that inhibits me from participating in this debate and the vote on it, the reason being that while I am a trustee… I take no part whatsoever in their consultation process on planning applications [and] I am not a member of their policy committee, deliberately so because I feel that is inconsistent with being on [this] planning committee.”
The majority of the committee again voted in favour of allowing the two upper floors of 6 Finkle Street in Sedbergh to become a residential flat again without the imposition of a legal agreement that it must be for local occupancy. (Such agreements can include holiday lets.)
The head of development management, Richard Graham, reminded members that at the August meeting a planning officer had recommended refusing the application because the owner had refused to sign a legal agreement.
The majority of the members, however, agreed that turning the upper floors back to residential use did not constitute “new build” and so did not require any legal agreement. They were also concerned that the imposition of such a legal agreement would have a negative impact upon businesses in the centre of Sedbergh.
As that was contrary to the officer’s recommendation the issue was referred back to the September meeting. Mr Graham said that the housing policy was aimed at delivering more affordable housing for local people. He did not accept the possible “material considerations” put forward last month but rather suggested others which could be used to support a decision that was not in accordance with policy.
He said: “Changing the use of the upper floors to residential in the circumstances in this case would not have a material effect upon the delivery of affordable housing for local people. The proposal would create a two-bedroom flat which, in this location, would be a relatively affordable form of accommodation and is less likely to become a second home or a holiday let than a house would be. But, of course, that cannot be guaranteed.
“There is a wider consideration here that [such a legal restriction] would hamper flexibility of businesses to use their premises and that may frustrate some of the economic objectives of the Local Plan.”
Jim Munday argued that imposing a legal restriction was in accordance with the Authority’s Local Plan especially as it wanted to attract more young people to the National Park.
But seven of the 13 members disagreed and confirmed the decision to approve the change of use of the two storeys without a local occupancy legal restriction.
The first and second floors of a former butcher’s shop in Grassington can be converted into a two-bedroom dwelling the committee agreed.
An internal passageway will be created to provide access to the apartment, the planning officer said. She added that the external alterations would be minimal being the insertion of three roof lights, the re-opening of a blocked-up window and the re-use of an existing door.
She commented: “The proposed development would see the loss of the upper floors from a potential business use, but there is still a large ground floor shop remaining together with two quite substantial store room areas.” The applicant had pointed out that the upper floors had not been used for 20 years.
Some residents had queried the siting of wheelie bins behind the premises but the planning officer said that the land did belong to the applicant. “Whilst the storage of wheelie bins in this location is not ideal, they would not have such a harmful impact on the amenity of neighbours to warrant the refusal of planning permission,” she stated.
Grassington Parish Council objected to the application because there was of the lack of parking in that area. The planning officer reported that the occupier of the dwelling could obtain a parking permit for the National Park Authority car park nearby.
Committee member Craven District councillor Richard Foster, commented that even though there was a lack of parking spaces in Grassington the conversion of the upper stories of the shop would be a great use of that space.
Approval was given on the basis that the applicant would sign a legal agreement restricting use of the flat to the local occupancy criteria set out in the Authority’s Local Plan or to short term holiday let.
The majority of the committee agreed that two extensions can be added to No Name House in Cracoe despite the objections of the parish meeting.
North Yorkshire County councillors Robert Heseltine recognised that Cracoe Parish Meeting seemed to be very much against the application but added: “Every concern that the parish meeting has brought has been overcome by the applicant in negotiation with the planning officer.”
The parish meeting’s objections included: the proposed extensions would overcrowd an already narrow lane; the proposed number of two parking spaces would be disproportionate when the number of bedrooms was increased from four to five; there were no extra parking spaces nearby; and the positioning of a flue for a new wood-burning stove. It stated it would not object to the replacement of the rear conservatory with just one of the extensions if its height, size and roof pitch were the same.
The planning officer reported that the garden room which will replace the conservatory was not significantly greater in size, would be largely screened by a tall fence, and would not overshadow the neighbouring property. The applicant, Richard Johnson, had agreed to place the wood-burner flue higher up so that smoke from it could not affect the neighbours.
The two-storey cat-slide extension on the other side of the house followed local precedent and would not, the planning officer said. have a negative impact upon neighbouring properties. He added: “Overall, it is considered that the proposal will have a sympathetic appearance within the site and the setting of the neighbouring listed building.”
As some residents were concerned about the future use of the garage the conditions included that this could not be converted into living accommodation without the written approval of the Authority.