ARC News Service reports on the meeting of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s (YDNPA) planning committee virtual meeting on Tuesday June 9. The two items discussed were a housing development at Austwick and a proposed barn conversion near West Burton.
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.
In December 2014 John Blackie (then the Leader of Richmondshire District Council) and the then chairman of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (Peter Charlesworth) warned about the loss of affordable and local occupancy homes in very rural areas due to the Government’s new policy which would allow a developer to build 10 or less houses on one site without having to make sure a provision. Charlesworth stated: ‘This… is likely to more than halve the number of affordable homes built in the National Park – homes that are essential to the long-term viability of local communities.’
Of the government’s policy Blackie said: ‘It’s a stab in the back for those who have the best interests of the future of rural and deeply rural communities at heart, and retaining the essential ingredient of young people and young families within them to maintain their long-term viability.’ (Northern Echo December 2014).
The government raised the threshold to 10 houses before which developers had to provide some on-site affordable housing. Instead they can pay a contribution towards affordable housing.
The continuing frustration and disappointment with the government’s policy was very evident at the June meeting of the YDNPA planning committee.
An application to build eight dwellings on land off Pant Lane in Austwick was approved even though the majority of the planning committee members were deeply disappointed that it did not include any affordable housing.
‘We are potentially giving permission for eight second homes or holiday cottages … with no specification for affordable housing,’ stated North Yorks County councillor Richard Welch .
And the chairman of the Authority, Craven District councillor Carl Lis summed up the feelings of most of the committee when he said: ‘There is no doubt that within the Austwick area there is need for affordable housing and I just find it disappointing that we can’t get that. Okay, we are going to get a financial contribution but that… doesn’t have to be used in Austwick. So Austwick loses its provision of affordable housing.’
Craven District councillor David Ireton added: ‘Small villages are requiring local need and local affordable housing. We are in danger here of somebody getting the cheque book out…and developing open market houses with no restrictions.’
As one member after another questioned the lack of provision for affordable housing the head of development management, Richard Graham, had to explain several times why they had no choice but to approve it. He said that the Authority’s previous Local Plan had required affordable housing to be provided on a site with that many houses. ‘It was impossible to sustain that policy position because the government’s policy changed. And Local Plans have to be in accordance with the government’s policy. As it stands at the moment [the application] complies with Local Plan policy and government policy.
‘The proposal will provide a financial contribution towards affordable housing. That can be used to help bring forward sites for affordable housing where the finances are marginal. We are talking to housing associations and community groups around the National Park about bringing forward various sites purely for affordable housing.’
The government’s policy and, therefore, that of the Local Plan meant, he said that the planning committee could not add a condition to its approval concerning affordable housing. North Yorkshire County councillor Robert Heseltine requested that because he said: ‘Every applicant will put this foot in the door approach and virtually nothing will be provided in the smaller villages in the National Park.’
A planning officer had told the committee she has encouraged the developer to include some affordable housing but complex negotiations would be required with Craven District Council and a housing association.
Two members, Allen Kirkbride and Richmondshire District councillor John Amsden, asked about including solar panels and charging points for electric cars. Cllr Lis agreed, pointing out that the Authority did have a policy on climate change. He added: ’We haven’t even got an indication as to the heating system. We need to encourage developers to install things into these houses which make them environmentally friendly.’
Austwick Parish Council told the committee: ‘The initiative to progress this Housing Development site is welcome as the availability of a number of new smaller houses could be of social and economic benefit to Austwick and may help to secure, for the longer term, the services and facilities we now have in place to support our community.’
It did not, therefore, object but had a number of concerns which included the lack on-site of affordable or local occupancy housing and renewable technologies. The planning officer reported that the developer had not yet decided what equipment to use for renewable energy technologies and he had been encouraged to consider alternative sustainable sources of heating.
Members queried giving permission before these details were agreed. “It’s totally wrong because they can walk away and do absolutely nothing,” commented Cllr Welch
The parish council also asked about the potential of surface water run-off and the developer has agreed to use limestone chippings instead of tarmac on the access road. There will now be only one access so that a portion of a high dry-stone wall will not be demolished. The planning officer explained that this and amendments to the design would mean there could be bigger gardens and more landscaping.
Member Jim Munday and Craven District councillor Richard Foster said it was a good development for Austwick. ‘It’s a great site and more houses are needed,’ said the latter.
And Lancashire County councillor Cosima Towneley reminded the members that they didn’t have a foot to stand on due to the government’s policy.
If someone wanted to know all the reasons why an application for a barn conversion should be refused they should look at that for a barn in Eastfield Lane, near Eshington Bridge, West Burton, said member Ian McPherson. The application was refused.
The planning officer reported that the barn was roofless and that there was a large full-height crack on the right hand-side of the eastern gable. As there was no structural assessment, it was not known how much rebuilding work would be required to make it sound enough for conversion into a three-bedroom family home, he added. Nor were there any details about the provision of electricity, telephone or broadband access.
The highway authority had objected as the access to the site would require significantly improved visibility splays, a larger parking area and passing spaces along the narrow lane. The highway engineer had noted that the proposed parking area would obstruct access to the agricultural building for which permission has already been granted. This might mean that the parking area would have to be enlarged and so intrude further into the field, the planning officer said.
The applicants had stated that the access to the traditional barn would be on foot from the parking area and the planning officer believed this could mean that a paved path would have to be created.
He pointed out that traditional barns could only be converted into dwellings if they were within existing settlements, building groups, or in suitable roadside locations. As this barn did not have a track leading up to it, it was in the open countryside and was not covered by that policy he said.
The committee was told that it was much the same application as that refused by an officer under delegated powers in 2018.
Cllr John Amsden had asked for the committee to consider the application because the applicant, Mike Bell, had said he needed to be near his farm to look after his livestock. The planning officer reported that there was nothing in the application to show that Bell had an essential full-time agricultural need to live and work on the land.
Cllr Amsden accepted that there was a lack of information from the applicant. ‘As you are going to refuse it, he will just have to come back again with more information,’ he said.
Cllr Heseltine commented: ‘If an application came back it would have to have full justification for agricultural [need].’
When answering a question from Cllr Towneley Mr Graham stated: ‘A bunk barn or camping barn is a much easier use than a dwelling and most camping barns require very little work to be done…to enable them to function. I think a well-designed camping barn in this location would probably fit with policy as it wouldn’t require curtilage. It wouldn’t require an extension, it wouldn’t necessarily require services to be provided, car parking, or any of the other attendant things required for the more intensive use that a permanently occupied dwelling requires.’