YDNPA – Full Authority meetings 2011

ARC News Service reports from YDNPA Full Authority meetings in 2011 including the expected impact of budget cuts; efforts to retain community services at Hudson House in Reeth; Sedbergh Community Office; and the proposal to extend the National Park’s boundaries.


February 3, 2011 when members agreed to the proposed budget cuts:

The National Parks have come off worse than all other local authority type organisations, the YDNPA’s head of finance and resources, Richard Burnett, told the members.  The YDNPA’s budget will be profoundly affected by the cut to its core grant from Defra and the chief executive, David Butterworth warned:

“Let’s not kid ourselves – this is a very tough financial settlement – it is worse than we expected. The cuts over the next four years are in the region of £2 million. That is £2 million out of £5.7 million – anybody can see that is a very significant budget reorganisation.” He urged the members to get a grasp of that and added: “I was a bit taken aback by some of the discussion at the last Authority meeting when at least a couple of members were kind of running away with the idea that it was simply a question of us doing the same kind of things but with fewer people. That’s not the case. We will be doing considerably less than we are doing now. It’s not a question of doing more with less, but of doing less with less. We particularly need to get this across to the public. I think it is incumbent upon us all, officers and members, to recognise what is happening within our communities. The public doesn’t understand yet what is coming – though it is bound to hit more in the next few months.”

The figure of almost £2 million had been calculated by adding the cost of inflation to the expected cut in grants from Defra of £1.434m. But Mr Butterworth warned that Defra had only given a settlement for 2011/12, and then indicative figures for the next three years. This meant that Defra could reduce the settlements for those years, he said. When asking the members to approve a budget which included the deletion of 11 of the Authority’s 36 programmes and other cuts he said: “If you are proposing things going back into the budget something else has got to come out, because the bottom line is not changing.”

He continued: “We are going to be losing around 30 members of staff in a variety of different areas – voluntary redundancy, compulsory redundancy, retirements and the end of some existing contracts.”

N Yorks County Cllr Stuart Parsons commented that at least the YDNPA was trying to reduce staff costs and retain front line services, as compared to Richmondshire District Council and North Yorkshire County Council.

He said afterwards: “If the county council actually reduced its senior management costs it would be able to save all the busses it is threatening to cut, plus the libraries. The YDNPA is the only local authority I know of in this area that is prepared to seriously cut down its management costs and the proposed restructuring will lose three senior well paid managers. Their jobs will go and this Authority is facing that an using that as a way of saving front line services. And the others should be doing the same thing.”

It had been expected that the Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund would be used to assist at least 15 new projects each year but that has been scaled down to 10. The Authority is considering introducing charges for services such as the planning officers giving advice on applications. (One wonders how many hours planning officers spent on helping with  the Scargill House application.)

The Authority will develop “paid for” leaflets at a price that will cover the production costs, and it is likely that visitor centres will depend upon the assistance of volunteers to remain open. In the report to the Finance and Resources committee it was stated: “It is very likely that necessity will require the Authority to use volunteers in areas of work where there are no longer employed staff, or where there are insufficient staff remaining to maintain a particular service with consequent risk to the jobs of those remaining staff.” And it warned that it would be unrealistic to expect to maintain the existing levels of satisfaction at visitor centres.

The YDNPA expects to make an additional £1.5K income from 2012/13 by removing the staff discount scheme in its retail section. In that year the retail service is expected to make a £96,660 profit. The Authority’s car parks will do even better – bringing in over £460,000 a year.

Hudson House –

Dales’ councillors made impassioned pleas at the YDNP Authority meeting on February 3 that funding to Hudson House in Reeth should not be cut in 2013.This was but one of the recommendations made in the proposed budget following the major reduction in the Defra grant to the YDNPA for the next financial year.

David Butterworth, the YDNPA chief executive, reminded members that in the next four years the Authority could expect a £2 million reduction in its budget. “A third of our budget is disappearing,” he said. And so the members were presented with a budget in which it was proposed to cut 11 programmes, cut back heavily on its funding to the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust and to make savings in other areas. One of those proposed savings was to stop funding Hudson House once the YDNPA’s present lease contract ended in 2013. “I suspect that the recommendation would have been 2011 if we had not been contractually obliged,” said the Chief Executive, David Butterworth.

North Yorks County Councillor John Blackie led the opposition to that proposal backed up by Grinton Parish Coun Harold Brown. Cllr Blackie, who represents the Upper Dales,  argued that the funding to Hudson House could be reduced by £7,000 to £20,000 a year with the money coming from the YDNPA’s community understanding budget which runs to around £600,000. “In my view there is sufficient budget within Community Understanding to rearrange some of the staffing resources. Hudson House, and our continued presence there, does a lot to promote community engagement within Swaledale and Arkengarthdale at a time when the government is looking for greater community engagement.”

Both he and South Lakeland District Councillor Kevin Lancaster reminded members that when the YDNPA sold the its building in Reeth it had been with the understanding that the Authority would continue to have a presence in that town so as to provide a service to Swaledale and Arkengarthdale.

Cllr Lancaster said: “I think it is absolutely wrong headed for this authority to be contemplating pulling out of places like Reeth. I believe it is fundamentally part of what the present government is wanting to achieve with the Big Society  – Hudson House is, in many ways, a pre-exemplar of the Big Society.”

In a passionate statement Parish Councillor Brown pointed out that Hudson House was the shop window for the YDNPA in Reeth and the two northern Dales. “If we pull out of Reeth the National Park will be criticised as it was in the past. We are feeling very disappointed about this news.” Dent Parish Councillor Graham Dalton and Richmondshire Dt Coun Raymond Alderson also supported the proposal to continue funding Hudson House.

Others, however, felt that the proposed budget should go into the consultation period unchanged. They hoped that during the consultation period more information might become available which would help members make the right decisions when the budget was discussed again in March, before being ratified.

The Chief Executive, David Butteworth, agreed with that. He said: “When we were looking at the budget as a whole we looked at the essential provision within the National Park. We compared Reeth to the four other visitor centres we have got – Hawes, Aysgarth Falls, Grassington and Malham. There is no comparison – it gets half the number of visitors and it cannot compete in retail activity.” He added that unlike the other four it had not been listed recently among the top visitor centres in the York and Humber region.

He added that the YDNPA was just one of the partners in the community office at Hudson House with Richmondshire District Council having the main responsibility for it.

Cllr Blackie responded: “I am disappointed with what Mr Butterworth had to say. This is a front line service. It’s at the heart of the local community.” He added that it did not get as many visitors as the other centres because not as many people visited Swaledale and Arkengarthdale.

His proposal to continue supporting Hudson House was defeated. So now the communities of Swaledale and Arkengarthdale must make their voices heard during the consultation period.

Later, when introducing the Save Hudson House Campaign Coun John Blackie stated:  “The likelihood that the withdrawal of the YDNPA will result in the complete collapse of Hudson House will go down incredibly badly with local people, and set back the reputation of the Authority to where it was in the 1990s. Then after a number of adverse planning decisions the YDNPA was regarded with outright hostility amidst the communities in the Two Dales, and its local people have very long memories.

“Its lead involvement in Hudson house has since led to the Authority being gradually accepted in these communities, but this perverse decision, if confirmed in March, will take it straight back to the bad old days.”

Hudson House contd:

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority ( YDNPA ) will continue to help to fund Hudson House in Reeth after 2013.

At the full authority meeting on Tuesday, March 29,  a majority  agreed with the proposal put forward by Cllr Stuart Parsons that £20,000 a year should be ring fenced within the promotion of community understanding budget from 2013 to 2015. This will be £7,000 a year less than Hudson House is receiving from the YDNPA at present and so, as Cllr Blackie said, it would receive its fair share of the budget cuts.

It had been proposed to stop funding Hudson House after 2013  but many of those who responded to the public consultation about the budget cuts the YDNPA planned to make were concerned that this would lead to the collapse of this community facility. David Butterworth, the YDNPA chief executive, commented that the consultation showed that Hudson House merited the greatest consideration when assessing the budget cuts.

Cllr Parsons said: “It is fairly obvious that if we do not support Hudson House we are threatening more than a tourist information centre – we are completely threatening a community. The importance of this consultation is we can as an Authority turn round and say ‘thank you for your comments, we have listened , we have taken on board everything you said.’ ”

When seconding Cllr Parson’s proposal Cllr Blackie said: “In a consultation like this you ask the question and then at your peril if you ignore the response.” He added that if the YDNPA pulled out of the partnership which supported Hudson House others might follow and this would lead to the collapse of what he described as a  wonderful community initiative and one which epitomised how the Authority should be working with residents and parish councils.

Ann  Brooks however asked where the additional funds set aside for Hudson House would come from and requested a detailed report on the structure and financing of this project.

In his proposal, which was accepted by a majority of the members, Cllr Parsons asked that YDNPA officers should enter into immediate and robust discussions with all partners to ensure the long term future of Hudson House. “It is now up to others to change and find a way of retaining the service.”  The YDNPA should therefore work with other local authorities and the public to find a way to save the facility.

Mr Butterworth reported  that he had met with the chair of the Hudson House partnership the previous day. He said that it could not be a question of the YDNPA riding to the rescue of another local venture that was really the responsibility of another body.

He reminded members that there would soon be a review of all of the YDNPA visitor centres. The funds that the YDNPA gives to Hudson House support the Authority’s visitor centre there. This, however, did not compare well with those at Aysgarth, Hawes, Grassington and Malham. For that reason, he said, the members would have to be careful when they prepared the terms of reference for that review that these took into consideration the community aspect of the Hudson House project.

March 2011

Planning meetings:

Planning committee meetings: Holding the YDNPA planning committee meetings in the afternoon will be a recipe for disaster said North Yorkshire County Councillor Richard Welch. It was proposed to hold these in the afternoon of the second Tuesday of each month so that other meetings could be held in the morning. This should produce some direct savings in postage, the cost of printing agendas, travel expenses and catering.

But Cllr Welch commented that holding the planning committee meetings in the afternoons would be atrocious and totally unworkable. “It is a high profile meeting – and the public might be here until 5.30pm. I think it is a recipe for disaster,” he said.

It was pointed out that in the past the full authority meetings had been held in the morning followed by the planning committee meetings – but that was before members of the public had the right to speak. Graham Dalton said the public gallery was often full at planning committee and there could be contentious issues to deal with. “We need to be alert and I feel the time for that is in the morning.”

The chairman, Cllr Lis, asked the members to give the new system a chance and reminded members that because of the budget cuts there would be 34 less staff. With the Authority facing such a large budget cut the members had to do their bit. He was supported by the Member champion for Planning, Cllr Blackie. He said he had initially felt that planning committee meetings should be held on a separate day but David Butterworth, the chief executive, convinced him they should give it a try. “I said it was against my better judgement (but) I said it was better to try and fail rather than not try.”

Mr Butterworth commented that as they would have less staff there would be less business at the various meetings. There were also less planning applications for members to discuss as so many were dealt with by officers under delegated powers.

The members allowances will not change and it was noted that often they are receiving below the minimum hourly wage, especially as some have increased work loads as member champions and due to the additional meetings that they attend on behalf of the YDNPA. It was felt that younger people would not be willing to become members if the allowances were too low and it would only be possible to recruit those who were retired or semi retired.

The changes begin in April with the planning committee meeting starting at 1pm on April 12. There will be no planning committee meeting in January 2012. The number of full Authority meetings each year will be reduced from six to four. It was agreed to cut the cost of the lunch time meals when meetings were being held. Thirteen members voted for the changes; three against and there was one abstention.

Planning department: Cllr Blackie reported that since the re-organisation of the planning department in 2009  there had been a genuine improvement in the service. This was apparent from the customer satisfaction questionnaires and from the focus group of those regularly in contact with the planning department, including some parish councils.

He said there had been far less complaints. Even so they would continuously pursue improvement.  “The key issue is communication,” he said and added that far fewer people had complained about not receiving replies to the letters and emails they had sent to the planning department.

Cllr Roberts, however, reported that there had still been complaints about the failure to respond to emails, particularly regarding the Scargill House development. Residents were also concerned about what they saw as inconsistencies in planning decisions. Cllr Lancaster queried how “inconsistency” was defined. “We need to be fair and we need to treat people equally,” he said, adding that sometimes being consistent led to what would appear to be unfair decisions.

There was also concern that with large and complicated planning applications it was possible to give the applicants so much time to explain their plans that to the objectors it looked as if the Authority was creating an unbalanced playing field.

Some parish councils also wanted to be kept informed about amendments to applications. As it was not a statutory duty of the Authority to do this  Cllr Blackie suggested that parish councils should inform the YDNPA that they wanted updates about specific applications.

Cllr Blackie wanted assurance that the Authority would take firm and quick action on enforcement issues and pointed out that their specialist on enforcement, Andrew McCullough, was leaving.  And Richmondshire District Councillor Raymond Alderson commented “We don’t want to get so low on personnel that people can take liberties.”  Peter Watson, the head of planning, believed that this would not happen now that enforcement had been integrated with the planning officer teams.

Andrew Colley asked why so many “minor applications” were taking so long to be resolved. Mr Watson explained that more legal documents had to be drawn up now that many applications involved affordable housing.

There was some discussion about how to keep residents better informed about planning applications and how these were dealt with. Cllr Lancaster said that maybe they could copy the French method which involved a very large sign in bold print being put up to advise residents about a planning application. “Those can’t be hidden,” he said.

Transport:The Yorkshire Dales could lose its local bus services for a year, David Butterworth, the chief executive of the YDNPA, warned. The YDNPA has found it difficult to know how to secure the bus services already operating within the Yorkshire Dales now that the government is preparing to introduce its Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF).

Cllr  Shelagh Marshall told the meeting  that the government would only accept two bids from North Yorkshire even though the county included York and two national parks as well as large urban areas.

The present central government seemed to have little comprehension of the problems in rural areas and had given the impression that it didn’t know where the national parks were in the county said Cllr John Blackie .He was among those who felt this was having a serious impact upon the discussions about the Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) for North Yorkshire.

Sharing services: Mr Butterworth told members that there had been exploratory discussions with Richmondshire District Council about the possibility of shared or joint services as a way of cutting costs. The two particularly discussed were planning and corporate services as there were shared communalities he said. The specialist services that the YDNPA could offer included conservation and  building conservation. He added that the YDNPA would not want to go further with these discussions until after the local elections in May.

Cllr Blackie, the Authority’s member champion for planning,  commented “The planners at Richmondshire District Council are first class. However in terms of our level of talent, skills and expertise … National Park is second to none.”

Super Broadband: When reporting on the broadband conference held in Ripon in February District Cllr Yvonne Peacock was concerned that the proposed Super Broadband schemes would not reach into the most rural areas of the Dales. “There are many areas around the Park that cannot get broadband,” she said.

Cllr Blackie commented that in parts of  Upper Wensleydale it was not possible to get either terrestrial TV or radio stations, there were still party lines for the telephones, and there was no mobile telephone network. “The great hope is super rural broadband – otherwise these extremely rural communities will be left behind in the 19th century for communications. We really must make sure we don’t miss out,” he said.

Cllr Shelagh Marshall was concerned that the internet connections to rural libraries might be cut off if those are closed. This, she said, would be a retrograde step, especially when more and more information from the government and other authorities was often only being available via the internet.

The lack of broadband was affecting the economy of the Dales as people could not set up businesses that required good internet connections. Cllr Roberts said that the very poor broadband provision in Wharfedale had led to one resident losing a potential buyer for his home.

Future of hill farming

As the cost of fuel soars hill farmers will have to look at ways of making their land more productive, Harold Brown told the meeting. Grants  from Defra ’s Countryside Stewardship Scheme do not cover costs and will come to an end in a few years, he explained and described the agency’s Uplands Policy Review as simply fine words.

Mr Brown, who is chairman of Grinton Parish Council in Swaledale, said that farmers in Upper Swaledale were now very worried. “They have brought the land fertility down for this scheme in the interests of wild flowers and they can’t grow enough fodder for what stock they have. So they have to lead it in from down country.”

If there was no increase in government grants they would have to consider an increase in productivity by grazing more sheep, he said. He added that the average age of hill farmers was now 60 with the younger ones not being willing  to take over a 24/7 job from which they couldn’t make a living wage. Neither he nor Richmondshire District Councillor  Raymond Alderson, also from Swaledale, were convinced that the government schemes were so necessary for the conservation of the landscape.

CllrAlderson commented: “There is no need by boffins to tell hill farmers how to farm these hills. Our forebears have been there for hundreds of years.” He prophesied that with the rising fuel costs every inch of land in the UK would have to produce what if could and that corn would be grown as far up the valleys as possible.

When discussing the Tim Thom’s 2nd biodiversity action plan for the Yorkshire Dales National Park Cllr Alderson queried the emphasis upon reducing grazing in upland areas. He said that when animals were grazing on the moors there was less rubbishy growth which choked other plants, and less need to burn heather. Mr Thom responded that it was a matter of the right management for each part of the dales and he had visited many farmers when working on the action plan.

Cllr Harrison-Topham said: “The problem is actually reconciling what one wants in terms of biodiversity with getting an economic use of the land. It is that clash which needs resolving.” He also pointed out that just getting the ecology of an area right didn’t always lead to attracting back various species such as the black grouse. He wondered if more should be done to study the impact of predation particularly by rooks.

Gary Smith, the YDNPA’s head of conservation and policy, noted that the Authority was the only one to have a biodiversity survey and action plan. “We are in a very different position to any other national park or local authority in the country. So at least we are in a position where we have evidence to back up everything we say (about the habitat).”

The members did adopt the Nature in the Dales 2020 (Vision) as the basis for developing its own biodiversity programmes and for working with partner bodies, farmers and landowners.

December 2011:

ARC News Service – a brief report on some of the issues discussed at the December 2011 meeting of the YDNPA Full Authority including the representation of Dales constituencies on the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA), the impact of the government’s National Planning Policy Framework and Localism Act on planning in the Yorkshire Dales including the latest YDNPA Housing Development Plan, Natural England‘s claims that there was a majority in favour of National Park boundary extensions, and how the YDNPA will prioritise its services following the budget cuts. The services affected include the Dales Countryside Museum and the Pennine Bridleway.

LOCAL REPRESENTATION – A good balance of local representation on the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority must be maintained, members agreed when they discussed the Defra review of governance.

The majority, therefore, voted against restricting membership to eight years because that would undermine local representation. County Coun John Blackie pointed out that both he and County Council Roger Harrison-Topham had already been members for eight years. “That would remove in a stroke any county councillors from North Yorkshire whose constituents are in the Dales. So you would have people coming from (places like) Scarborough. One of the purposes of the government’s review is to engage more with local communities,” he said. Craven Dt Coun Carl Lis, chairman of the Authority, added that the YDNPA would lose members who had an enormous amount of knowledge.

Members agreed with the proposal to abolish the requirement that district and county councils should, if appointing three or more members to a National Park Authority , ensure that there is a political balance. This has led in the past to members being appointed from Scarborough, Selby and York.  But when County Coun Blackie asked if such councils could be directed to assign to the Authority  councillors who had been elected by residents in the National Park Mr Butterworth said that the government would not consider that.

It was agreed that any resident of the National Park, as long as they were not a county or district councillor, should be eligible to be parish members. At present this is restricted to serving parish councillors and chairmen of parish meetings in the National Park. Richard Daly, the solicitor and monitoring officer, reported that there was a strong view emerging that the National Parks should appoint the parish members rather than the Secretary of State.

NEW PLANNING LAWS – The government’s  new National Planning Policy Framework could invalidate all or part of the YDNPA’s existing local plans the members were warned. Officers noted: “A loss of planning policy would reduce the Authority’s influence in making development decisions and using the Planning system to deliver National Park purposes. For applicants and residents losing the local plans risks inconsistency, delay and additional cost.”

For this reason the Authority is very keen to prepare a new Management Plan and Core Strategy. The Core Strategy should include a 30 year vision for the National Park and could be used for day to day planning application work. The Authority would like to adopt the new strategy by the end of 2014 and the first public consultation period should be between March and May 2012.

N Yorks County Councillor Shelagh Marshall asked if the Federation of Small Businesses could also be invited to be represented on the steering group which will oversee the production of the National Park Management Plan. Nine members voted against this proposal with eight being for it.

The Localism Act of 2011 has led to a two tier approach to the examination of development plans. So the YDNPA members had to decide which approach they wanted to submit the new YDNPA Housing Development Plan to. They opted for that in which, if the inspector  found deficiencies in the Plan he could recommend changes. The other option – for the inspector to determine only whether the plan was sound or not – could lead to it being sent right back to the consultation stage.

BOUNDARY EXTENSION  – Members questioned the statistics provided by Natural England to support its claim that the consultation responses showed a large majority in favour of including Orton Fells in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It was pointed out that the 57 objectors included two county councils and three district councils, all of which represented hundreds of residents. As these councils had objected there would have to be an  public enquiry. David Butterworth, CEO, said that the Authority would object on the basis of the cost of the National Park boundary extensions. He said he would ask for detailed costs.

According to the financial formula applied to National Parks the YDNPA would receive an additional £750,000 a year if the boundary of the park was extended. In the government’s governance review  it had been decided not to cut the number of members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority as the boundary extension was on the agenda.

FINANCIAL PRIORITIES –  The large cut in the government grant means that the Authority has to accept that instead of looking to improve services it has to decide where to cut back, Gary Smith, the deputy chief executive told the members. This meant that some programmes would suffer through lack of funds. At a members’ forum in November it was agreed that the top priority programmes would be: farm conservation, building conservation, biodiversity, recreational activities, rights of way, sustainable tourism, and climate change which would include restoring degraded peatland, the creation of more woodland, and to support the implementation of at least three hydro-electric schemes by the end of 2012. Those programmes for which the YDNPA will seek to maintain a good level of service will include the Dales Countryside Museum (DCM), green lanes, volunteers, archaeology, countryside skills and training, national park centres, outreach, toilets and web-based services. Car parks, open access, the Pennine Bridleway and retail will be on the lowest tier of priorities. In the debate about the DCM Mr Butterworth said that the Authority could not now go ahead with the major re-development scheme which had been planned for the museum. Instead there would be just small scale improvements using existing resources.

William Weston warned that the museum project was teetering on the edge. He argued that there was a need for a vision and strategy even if there were limited funds.

Sedbergh Community Office

There was clapping and cheering at the meeting on Tuesday, December 13 when members  of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority ( YDNPA ) approved the sale of 72a Main Street and adjoining open space at Sedbergh to the White Knights Consortium. This should ensure the future of Sedbergh Community Office and Sedbergh History Society.

The White Knights is a local  consortium which had bid £80,000 on a “not for profit” basis. It will hold the property and open space in trust for the town for up to four years so that the Sedbergh and District Community Development Heritage Trust has more time to raise the money.  If the community cannot not raise £80,000 the ownership would then be transferred to Sedbergh Parish Councill to be sold on the open market so that the White Knights can be repaid.

One of the conditions agreed by the Authority was that if there was any profit from selling on the open market 50 per cent would be given to the YDNPA. The rest would be donated to the community of Sedbergh. Some Authority members asked how the YDNPA could sell for £30,000 to £50,000 less than it might have got on the open market.

The YDNPA had budgeted for £130,000 at a time when it  needed the money to cover staff salaries and other costs.  “I don’t know where that money can be found – it is looking rather bleak,” said Authority member Ann  Brooks. She added: “I urge the people of Sedbergh to repay (the White Knights) as quickly as possible.”

Richmondshire Dt Coun Stuart Parsons, who proposed the acceptance of the White Knights offer, pointed out that the expected open market price of the building had dropped in the last few years  from £192,500 to £110,000 by October. “There is no guarantee we would get £110,000 now,” he said. He added that the relationship between the Authority and the community of Sedbergh could be further damaged if the sale didn’t go ahead and that could take years to repair. “That is too high a price to pay,” he commented.

David Butterworth, the chief executive, recommended that the Authority should accept the White Knights offer.  In his report he noted that the Authority had no further use for the building and had decided to sell it. But even when the price was reduced there were no offers for it except that from the White Knights for £60,000 which had been subsequently increased to £80,000.

He told members: “I have been hugely impressed and somewhat humbled by the responses I have received not just from Sedbergh but from other parts of Britain and the world. The majority have been thoughtful and considerate.” He described Mark Westwood of the White Knights Consortium as a man of honour and integrity who had worked well with Richard Burnett of the YDNPA. And he hoped that the sale of the building to the White Knights would lead to a positive relationship between the YDNPA and the community of Sedbergh.

As the Authority had been assured that the building and open space would continue to contribute towards the promotion and improvement of the economic, social and environmental being of  part of the National Park it could, under a general consent from the Secretary of State, sell these at less than £110,000. By selling to the White Knights the future of the Community Office and the History Society could be safeguarded. The Community Office provides an information service in that part of the National Park and the open space is seen as an important aspect of the Sedbergh townscape initiative.

The YDNPA has discussed what to do with 72a Main Street many times in the last 10 years.  Coun Hilary Hodge, chairman of Sedbergh Parish Council, commented:  “It’s often been said that Sedbergh never gets its act together. We now have very wide community support for what we are doing.” She added that the YDNPA officers had been superb and had played a key part in creating  a route map for the future of the building and the open space.

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