ARC News Agency reports on the meeting of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s (YDNPA ) planning committee meeting at Grassington Devonshire Institute on Tuesday October 19 when the following were discussed: use of a bridleway to transport timber from near Clapham through Austwick; a farmer’s request for accessible accommodation at a farm at Flasby; the change of use of the former school building in Arkengarthdale; and an enforcement notice for a small laundry at Sedbergh.
The Deputy Chairman of the planning committee, Mark Corner, chaired the meeting. He and two others members of the planning committee are trustees of the Friends of the Dales. On its website this group states: ‘The issue of development control in the Dales is often a thorny one and Friends of the Dales helps by providing an independent watchdog role.’
Austwick and Clapham
Despite some impassioned pleas from members and the representative of Austwick and Feizor Parish Council the planning committee gave approval for timber lorries to use public bridleways between Austwick and Clapham.
Ingleborough Estate’s application was for the creation of a timber wagon turning and timber stacking area in Thwaite Wood near Clapham, plus the maintenance and improvement of timber extraction route and the installation of a reinforced concrete crossing over a sheep underpass.
Seven members voted for approval and seven were against and the acting chairman, Mark Corner, made his casting vote in favour of the officer’s recommendation. At the end of the debate he told the committee that he was a regular user of the bridleway. ‘It is one of the nicest lanes in the dales. I don’t mind stepping aside for the occasional tractor or slurry wagon. It’s no great drama. I do feel we need to keep the number of movements [in mind] – we are talking of a maximum of 40 a year and only during the week, avoiding the periods when children are in and out [of school].’
Member Allen Kirkbride also pointed out that there would only be one wagon a day using part of the bridleway and passing through Austwick.
Austwick Parish councillor David Dewhirst, however, reported that there was considerable concern about the impact upon the village and 967 people had already signed an on-line petition objecting to the proposal. He said half of the two and a half mile route taken by the timber wagons was along the popular Pennine Bridleway and the other half along narrow lanes with 90 degree bends and steep hills with up to 20 per cent gradients.
‘There are also a number of pinch points in Austwick going past the front doors of no fewer than 91 houses, a primary school, a pub, a shop and post office,’ he added.
Clapham with Newby Parish Council also objected to the proposed route partly because of the impact upon the safety and amenity of those using the bridleway. It stated it preferred a route, using smaller vehicles, which went towards the Clapham end of the byway.
Craven District councillor Carl Lis pointed out that when the Authority was considering routes for quarry vehicles it had been agreed these should not go through Austwick and he questioned the consistency of the planning officer’s recommendation.
He stated: ‘This part of the Pennine Bridleway is a prime example of the quality of work that has been done in this National Park. It is an incredibly important part of our network. To suggest that we should in any way damage that to me is absolutely, totally unthinkable.’
He said the only reason the planning officer had given for rejecting an alternative route proposed by the parish council was the steepness of the gradient.
Member Jim Munday asked if he would have to shove his grandchildren into a ditch when a timber lorry approached them on the bridleway. And Member Derek Twine pointed out that advising walkers to step onto the verge was alright for those who could easily do so but certainly not for those using mobility scooters.
Christopher Guest, the agent for Ingleborough Estate told the committee that the alternative routes suggested were either unworkable, destructive to both the landscape and ecology of the area, or simply not viable economically. He explained that the majority of the woodland had been neglected for decades and if the work was not carried out it could not be sustainably managed.
The Authority’s Trees and Woodland team had reported that the woodland was affected by ash dieback and the larch and rhododendron was susceptible to a highly infectious disease (phytophthora ramoram). The estate was, therefore, keen to fell and sell ash and larch before they became worthless. Its proposed woodland management plan had been approved by the Forestry Commission.
None of the members objected to the creation of the stacking area, the proposed management of the woodland and the removal of timber. The turning bay and stacking area will be within Thwaite Wood at the junction of Thwaite Lane and Long Lane. The proposal includes the removal of 16m of drystone wall at the stacking area, the partial resurfacing of the lanes with crushed limestone, and some widening of parts of Thwaite Lane.
The National Park needs to consider the sustainability of communities including the elderly and their ability to continue to farm, North Yorkshire County councillor Yvonne Peacock told the committee when it was discussing an application to provide purpose-built accessible accommodation at Bark Laithe Farm, Flasby.
She wanted to find a solution that enabled Robert Riley to remain farming while caring for his wife and argued that the proposed purpose-built accommodation within the farmyard was the best option. This will replace a timber stable block. All the bedrooms and the toilet facilities in the farmhouse are on the second floor.
Robert Riley told the committee: ‘Wendy has mobility issues and her health has deteriorated significantly in recent years. We have reached the point where she needs specialist accommodation which is all on one level. I am now faced with a situation where I am not prepared to allow Wendy to suffer by living in a house that is totally unsuited to her needs. Unless this is approved I face the alternative of having to move from the farm into a bungalow in a nearby town or village.’ He added that would end his farming career which was his real passion.
Allen Kirkbride supported this stating that he saw it as a farmyard development and a necessary exception.
The planning officer had told members: ‘The personal circumstances of the applicant are not of such an exceptional level that adequately justify the need for a second dwelling,’ and that, therefore, there was no policy-basis for approval. The Authority’s legal officer, Clare Bevan, stated: ‘As a point of law personal circumstances can be a mitigating consideration but we must be satisfied that they are exceptional.’
Mark Corner agreed with the planning officer. He said he was very sympathetic to the situation but didn’t feel they should set a precedent. He stated: ‘I can’t see why the existing farmhouse can’t be adapted. Policy is designed to exclude all but exceptional circumstances. Unfortunately getting older and less mobile is a generic challenge for all of us.’
The committee, however, decided (seven votes to six with one abstention) to approve the application by. The head of development management, Richard Graham, said that this decision would be deferred to the next meeting so that officers had time to test its validity or soundness given that it was contrary to the recommendation of the planning officer.
The committee agreed that the former school building in Arkengarthdale can be converted into a single dwelling with two bedrooms to be used for bed and breakfast.
Richmondshire District councillor Richard Good told the committee: ‘I do support the application but it’s a shame that it isn’t going to be affordable homes. What I do like about this application is that we have got bed and breakfast provision.’
The planning officer reported that, following the closure of the school in 2019, the Arkengarthdale School Building Community Group, supported by Arkengarthdale Parish Council, had the site registered as an Asset of Community Value. This had triggered a six-month moratorium that restricted the building to community uses only. The Community Group had, however, failed to raise the funds required by June last year and the building was sold on the open market. Richmondshire District Council had confirmed that the building was no longer listed as an Asset of Community Value.
Cllr Good explained that the community in Arkengarthdale had then been given six months to try and put together a scheme for community use. There had been lots of bright ideas but nothing came forward he said. The new owners, Martin and Sue Stephenson, were then able to apply for change of use.
Their application included the construction of a car port with a studio cum classroom above it, the latter to support the activity weekends being planned by the Stephensons. This, they had told the planning officer, would bring in couples, families and small groups who would enjoy the activities in the local countryside and on-site and so help generate local employment and support businesses in the area that provided accommodation.
Cllr Peacock declared an interest and did not vote.
The owner of a small laundry behind Main Street in Sedbergh was given one month to discontinue that part of his business and remove all the equipment after the committee unanimously voted to authorise the Authority’s solicitor to serve an Enforcement Notice.
South Lakeland District councillor IanMitchell told the members that it was situated in a non-commercial area which was totally unsuitable for a laundry. And another member, Jim Munday, commented: ‘It’s the wrong business in the wrong place.’
Nigel Close Ltd had applied for retrospective planning permission for using two small, single storey outbuildings behind Main Street for the laundry which serves the business’s three holiday lets. A previous application (minus a planning statement) had been refused in December 2020. The applicant had, however, gone ahead with setting up the laundry.
The applicant had maintained that as it was in a commercial business and service area and could be carried out without detriment to the amenity of neighbours it did not require planning permission. The planning officer reported that, since it became operational, there had been complaints from three neighbouring properties. He said the laundry use was presently resulting in noise and odour emissions from the building and site to the detriment of residential amenity.
In the original planning application it was stated that the laundry would be in operation from 8am to 5pm 365 days a year.
These reports are made available on a voluntary basis by the Association of Rural Communities.