Above: Shoemaker Barn at Grinton
The future of farming in the Dales was at stake warned members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s ( YDNPA ) planning committee on November 12 2019 when they discussed applications affecting the Red Lion Farm at Beamsley and Shoemaker Barn at Grinton. They also discussed a development of nine new houses and a barn conversion at Horton in Ribblesdale. It was agreed to defer a decision about the proposed conversion of Yore Mill at Aysgarth.
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.
Beamsley and Grinton
The majority of the members refused the advice of an officer to approve an application by the Chatsworth Settlement Trustees for Bolton Abbey Estate to change the use of a dwelling, barn and agricultural buildings to form offices, storage buildings and workshops at Red Lion Farm, Beamsley partly because this would mean a tenant farmer and his family would have to move out of their home.
The members also went against officer’s advice when they approved an application to convert Shoemaker Barn at Grinton into an agricultural worker’s dwelling. Both decisions have been referred back to the meeting on December 10 and that was especially questioned by members following the overwhelming vote to refuse the application concerning Red Lion Farm.
The head of development management, Richard Graham, said that officers needed to analyse the reasons put forward by the members to ensure that they were defensible in court. He added: “The reference back wouldn’t be for officers to reinforce their reasons for their recommendations.”
Parish council representative Allen Kirkbride told the committee during the discussion about Shoemaker Barn: “This will turn an eyesore into a home for a young family which is going to live in the Dales and farm in the Dales.”
He noted similar had been said about the younger members of the Winterburn family at Red Lion Farm and stated: “The future of farming in the Dales is at stake here and we need young people.”
Joanna Winterburn had told the committee: “This is a frightening experience for me, my family and it affects a lot of other people all in aid of creating storage and offices.
“Without successive tenancies the young generation will move out of the area in search of security, taking with them the skills passed on through countless generations.”
John Akrigg, the agent for Chris Porter and his wife who had applied to convert Shoemaker Barn to create a family home for themselves, said: “Without the retention of the people who possess the skills to safeguard these landscape features the Dales that we all love and fight to protect cannot be sustained. One day the Swaledale [sheep] may be the icon for the Dales but the herds will have disappeared.”
He added: “This Authority is aware of the fragility of hill farming and is committed to work with stakeholders to safeguard its future. If members support this application today they will do something positive and send a message to other young people that they have a place here.”
Richmondshire District councillor John Amsden said it wasn’t right to kick a tenant farmer out to provide storage facilities and commented later: “It’s the farmers who keep the landscape looking lovely for tourists. They don’t do it for you lot, they do it for a living and it’s a very hard living.”
The planning officer had recommended refusal of the Porters’ application because they had not proved a need for an agricultural worker’s dwelling at Grinton and because: “The proposal would lead to the creation of a fake and prominent ‘traditional barn’ that never previously existed which would result in a harmful and disruptive effect on the understanding of the historic landscape and the significance of the Barns and Walls Conservation Area.”
Richmondshire District councillor Richard Good commented: “I find it difficult to say that we need to keep it like that because it is in a conservation area… because it is ugly.”
Cllr Kirkbride argued that the Porters wanted to restore the barn to how it had looked years ago. They would do this, he said, by removing concrete extensions, lifting the roof slightly to the height it had been before a fire many years ago, and re-inserting windows where they had been previously.
The alterations over the years had meant that less than 30 per cent of the original barn remained but another member, Jocelyn Manners Armstrong, said: “I do think the applicants are in a difficult position here and it is partly the way our policies are constructed that puts them in that position and, therefore, we have a bit of responsibility to try and help. On one hand we say there’s not enough of the original building left for us to say it is a traditional building [that can be converted]. On the other hand we say that it would be a new build in the open countryside. There is an interesting traditional building which they do want to restore.”
She explained that she had voted against the Porters’ application in December partly because it was for a holiday let or a family home. But this time it was for an agricultural worker’s dwelling and she, like many other members, accepted there was a need.
The planning officer stated that there wasn’t evidence that the land at Grinton did require a full-time worker even though the proposal included a new agricultural building to house rams over winter and lamb sheep in the spring. The new agricultural building would be sited behind the barn.
He said that Porters should consider creating a new dwelling on land owned by their extended family at Oxnop or at Gunnerside – or apply to add an extension to their present home at Grinton.
Cllr Kirkbride pointed out that the farm enterprise had land from Grinton to Gunnerside and so needed agricultural workers at either end as well as at Oxnop. For that reason the agricultural need should be based upon the farm enterprise as a whole he said.
Member Ian McPherson commented: “Given the need to support and nurture and enhance farming in the Dales and in view of the fact of the reports relating to individual members of the family and their health concerns…. I feel the benefit of the doubt should be given to the applicants.”
About the Red Lion Farm application he said that the approach by the Chatsworth Settlement Trustees was “completely unconscionable”.“I cannot imagine where they are coming from if they are taking the view that the store requirements… overrides this very long standing tenancy and the needs of a Dales farmer and his family who have been farming in the area for generations.”
Red Lion Farm
Colin Winterburn told the committee: “It seems to us that the Estate are intent on removing the indigenous population. We farmed 144 acres until we got notice to quit on 100 acres.”
He said they still had 44 acres on which 60 cattle would be kept. If they have to move they would also have to close their farm shop.
The Chatsworth Settlement Trustees’ agent, John Steel, said that several members of staff and equipment had been displaced when the Tithe Barn on Bolton Abbey Estate was restored. Of Red Lion Farm he stated: “This site offers a very convenient location on a single complex that can accommodate the Estate maintenance teams.”
He added that the Estate was offering the Winterburns an alternative home and compensation that greatly exceeded the statutory minimum and alternative farm buildings but would not allow any more buildings to be constructed.
He continued: “The 44 acres we believe cannot generate sufficient income to support two full-time workers. The farm shop … opens three days a week and the income generated has never been of sufficiently high level where it needs to be taken into account for reviews. Whilst the long-standing tenant is facing change it is a change that will not make the family homeless nor deprive them of the ability to continue farming.”
But North Yorkshire County councillor Robert Heseltine quoted the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) that neither the new home nor the compensation being offered would guarantee that the Winterburns could continue farming as they currently do and stated: “If this application is successful it will be the final nail in the coffin of this Dales’ farming business. “
They had, he said, farmed with the security of an Agricultural Holdings Act tenancy and added: “It appears there is a break down in the trust needed between the landlord and tenant. What is needed is [time] to reconcile their differences.”
He reported that there were alternative sites as there were hundreds of traditional and modern agricultural buildings on the Bolton Abbey Estate many of which were either not used or under-used.
Ian McPherson asked how anyone would feel if someone came along and said their home was needed for storage purposes and pointed out that even if the shop wasn’t economically viable it was being used and was highly valued by the community. Both he and Mrs Manners Armstrong questioned how approval could be in accord with human rights legislation.
Mrs Manners Armstrong pointed out that interference with someone’s human rights had to be justified as in the public interest. “I do not agree this is justified as in the public interest,” she stated. She, like other members, did not believe the officer’s recommendation was in line with the Authority’s policy regarding change of use as the modern farm buildings were not redundant.
She added: “To approve this would be in conflict with our first purpose – to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the National Park. And if a Dale’s farm has been in functional operation for 300 years is not a cultural heritage I don’t know what is. To me we have to protect this – this is very important”.
Or as Mrs Winterburn said: “We have worked all our lives to pass this farm onto our children. Should the application be granted not only our lives but the Dales’ communities and the lives of future generations will change for ever.”
Horton in Ribblesdale
An application for nine new houses and a barn conversion at Horton in Ribblesdale was approved with the strong recommenation that a pedestrian footpath to the village should be provided.
The chairman of Horton in Ribblesdale Parish councillor Martin Hanson told the committee that the need for a footway along the B6479 could not be ignored. “This is an extremely fast piece of road despite being a 30 limit. The parish council has sourced and provided a permanent speed camera on a location directly opposite this development and it showed a peak speed of 75mph. In Horton there is no highway lighting. All the lighting is footway lighting sorted out by the parish council. If there is no footway we can’t put in footway lighting.”
The committee asked for a footway to be included in the site plans. But it would be up to Highways North Yorkshire to provide a footway which linked it to the village the planning officer said.
She also told the committee that there would be a serious impact upon the access to the development site if the present lean-to on the barn was not removed. North Yorkshire County councillor Robert Heseltine said that replacing the lean-to at the front of the barn with a new one at the back did not respect the integrity of the building.
The access to the development will be at one end of a terrace of four stone and slate terrace cottages which will comprise the local affordable housing on the site. The five open-market self-build houses will be in a loose farmstead layout, the planning officer said, with one being a new-build farmhouse-style dwelling and four others to look like modern agricultural buildings with timber cladding and metal roofing sheets.
Member Neil Swain said the latter should be relatively easy and cheap to construct allowing people to build their own homes.
Ian McPherson, however, did not like the distinct separation between the affordable homes and the open-market ones. The planning officer explained that this was for purely practical reasons as Craven District Council will hold the freehold for the affordable homes as the Registered Provider.
She reported that shares for those four houses would range from 25 per cent to 75 per cent subject to the income levels of the prospective purchasers and ownership would be capped at 80 per cent. The district council will enter into legal agreements so that those houses will remain affordable for perpetuity.
Like Cllr Hanson, Craven District councillor Richard Foster commented that it was a shame that it had taken so long since the development was planned in 2012 because now the village’s school and shop had closed. He and other members hoped the development would encourage young families to move into the area.
North Yorkshire County councillor Richard Welch, however, asked if young couples would want to move to the village as there was no school for their children and an irregular bus service.
A local resident, Julie Rose, also questioned the likelihood that young families would want to live there. “The only people who want to move to the village now either want second or retirement homes,” she said.
She told the committee that the development would not be in keeping with the style of the surrounding residential properties especially as there would be three different designs on the site which, she argued, would not blend together.
The planning officer reported that the developer had amended the scheme so that the affordable houses and parking area would not be as close to existing houses and so have an impact upon the amenity of neighbours.
Before the debate began there were declarations of interest by North Yorkshire County councillor David Ireton and Cllr Heseltine. The chair, Julie Martin, declared an interest as a trustee of the Friends of the Dales which had responded to the consultation on the development. She said she had taken no part in preparing that and so would vote. Cllr Welch said he would speak but would not vote as he had attended discussions about the development at county council meetings. There was a need for transparency in the eyes of the public he said.
Yore Mill, Aysgarth
David Peacock had applied for permission to convert Yore Mill into two apartments, six holiday let apartments and one local occupancy apartment in conjunction with a visitor centre, some business, light industrial and retail use and the re-instatement of the hydro-electric turbine.
Aysgarth and District Parish Council had told the Authority that it supported the application and would appreciate it if the application dealt with quickly as the listed building was in a dangerous condition and needed to be restored and maintained as soon as possible.
The North Yorkshire Highways had, however, recommended refusal because of the absence of adequate on-site parking spaces. It noted that if those staying at Yore Mill parked in the YDNPA car park they would have to cross the bridge where there was no formal footway. “Pedestrians would be expected to walk in the carriageway to the detriment of road safety,” it stated.
When recommending refusal the planning officer stated: “The proposal to convert Yore Mill into a mixed used development without sufficient dedicated car parking would cause congestion in and around the Aysgarth Falls area and displace car parking from the nearby public car parks which would be to the detriment of road safety and the amenity of residents.”
The applicant’s agents had informed the Authority that there were some late developments regarding car parking provision and so asked that a decision should be deferred to the next meeting.
As officers considered this was appropriate in the circumstances it was unanimously agreed to defer the application to December 10.