ARC News Service reports for some YDNPA Full Authority meetings in 2015 and 2016
JUNE 2015 – AGM
The issues discussed included: the YDNPA’s new Local Plan and Upper Wharfedale bus services.
The Authority is taking risks with its proposed new Local Plan, Craven District councillor Carl Lis said. He is the member champion for sustainable development.
“We need to accept the experimentation and the risks that go along with this new policy,” he told the Authority members. “There is a wider housing mix, more visitor accommodation, more land for employment and the roll out of barn conversion beyond settlements. There’s a lot more policy flexibility to permit development and to support the economy – yet there’s a continuance of conservation policies to maintain environmental quality, to keep design standards high and to protect the Park’s special qualities,” he explained.
Harold Brown responded: “People are waiting with bated breath about our barn conversion policy. We know from the policy forum there are about three options: let them fall down into a heap of rubble; salvage them to keep others up; or do some conversion hopefully for young people who are just starting.”
“It’s bit of an unknown – bit of a risk,” commented Peter Stockton, YDNPA’s head of sustainable development.
He told the meeting that it was proposed in the new Local Plan traditional barns that directly adjoined a road or were close to it could be converted as long as there were not any significant historical features and they were large enough for the use intended without any extensions. In addition landowners will be offered a choice between local occupancy or paying 50 per cent of the uplift in value if the newly converted barn was sold on the open market. That “conservation levy” (commuted sum) would be put in a fund by the YDNPA which would be go towards the cost of repairing and maintaining landmark field barns which can’t be converted to other uses.
Mr Stockton added: “This plan is responding to the national growth agenda. It’s a much more positive than the (2006) plan. It is responding to some of the demographic and economic challenges that we face.”
When asked what the Authority could do if it was found that the policies were not achieving the National Park’s objectives he said that selective changes could be made to the Local Plan later subject to consultation.
Richmondshire District councillors Yvonne Peacock and Johan Blackie were among those who welcomed the new policy on barn conversions as a way of helping local people obtain a home near their families.
Andrew Colley, who is a Grassington parish councillor, told Mr Stockton that he felt that the proposals regarding Linton Camp were too restrictive. This is because in the new Local Plan the Authority will only allow the replacement of the existing buildings.
Mr Stockton explained: “We don’t consider the whole of that site to be suitable for development and we would expect a large green area to be left. This is because we are aware of surface water issues and there is a significant archaeological restraint.”
For these reasons, he said, the Authority was looking the development of the sites on which there were buildings already, rather than comprehensive coverage of the camp. “We probably are being too prescriptive here,” he added.
“I just feel there isn’t enough wriggle room,” commented Mr Colley.
He also queried the increased density of houses to be allowed on allocated development sites.
Mr Stockton replied that the Welfare Reform Act had led to far less flexibility for bedroom space in affordable housing and a greater demand for one or two bedroom houses. Smaller units led to higher densities he said. The time for the community to debate this would be when a planning application was made for a housing development. He asked that any layout should be judged on how it worked on site rather than on the density of housing.
He also explained that building regulations had been greatly improved to ensure that new houses were built according to high energy conservation standards. It was no longer necessary, he said, for the Authority to specify those standards.
Craven District Council councillor David Ireton asked what could be done to ensure that more quarry products were transported by rail rather than by road, to lessen the environmental impact.
In response Mr Stockton said: “We will continue to work positively with the quarry companies and look at extensions in time and depth (to see) where we can get substantive environmental benefits. Arguably the most substantial environmental benefit in Ribblesdale is transferring more quarry products onto rail. That is already in this policy …. (but) we can’t require them to do that if they have the benefit of a legitimate planning permission without (paying) substantial compensation.”
North Yorkshire County councillor Richard Welch stated: “It’s all very nice to say put everything on a train. What you’ve got to realise is that it’s got to get off at the other end. Unless there are facilities to take it off there is no incentive to put it on a train.”
He explained that a lot of the crushed rock was being used on new housing estates and roads and the shortest route from a quarry to such sites was usually by wagon. “If you put it on a train but have to move it by road at the other end it’s a pointless exercise,” he added.
Cllr Blackie raised three concerns including retaining the possibility of having a swimming pool in Hawes.
He mentioned the scare that the Environment Agency had placed over Hawes by describing all of the town centre as under a 100-year flood risk. The last flood there was in 1870, he said. He was worried that this “flood risk” would have an impact on any proposals to extend the business park which was now at full capacity.
And he was concerned that existing business parks like that at Hawes should not be included in the proposal to allow more live-work units. “I would hate to see Hawes business park spattered with live-work units,” he said.
Publication of the new Local Plan
The committee agreed that the new Local Plan could be published at the end of July. Formal representations and objections to the Local Plan can be made during following seven weeks following publication and before it is submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for examination. The new Local Plan can be viewed at the YDNPA offices at Grassington and Bainbridge.
As affordable housing is such an important part of the new Local Plan Mr Charlesworth agreed that the issue of extending the Right to Buy scheme could be discussed. See Right to buy and rural communities.
Upper Wharfedale Bus Services
A regular bus service is vitally important to maintaining communities in Upper Wharfedale Mr Charlesworth stated.
He was replying to a request by Veronica Boulton for the YDNPA to respond to North Yorkshire County Council’s consultation on the future of bus services in Wharfedale. Ms Boulton is a member of Friends of DalesBus.
She told the meeting that the county council was proposing to reduce the regular bus service and have only a demand responsive service in Upper Wharfedale.
Mr Charlesworth replied: “Maintaining vital communities is fundamental to the achievement of the statutory purposes of the National Park. Our Management Plan makes it clear that we and our partners want the National Park to be home to strong self-reliant and balanced communities with good access to the services that they need. Equally important is that we want it to be a friendly, open and welcoming place with outstanding opportunities to enjoy its special qualities. Neither of these ambitions can be achieved without public transport and community transport schemes.
“So on the face of it the proposal from the county council puts these objectives in considerable doubt. We will certainly raise these concerns with the county council both personally and through the Authority.”
He added that he would also raise the subject with Rory Stewart MP, the Defra minister with responsibility for National Parks.
Cllr Blackie reported that he had been contacted by Craven District councillor Chris Clark about the community Little White bus service in Wensleydale, Swaledale and Arkengarthdale of which he is the managing director. This, he said, now has seven buses, 35 volunteer drivers and five part-time staff. This provides both regular and on-demand bus services as the former had been found to be so necessary both for local residents and visitors.
The issues discussed were: concern over further cuts in the YDNPA’s grant from Defra; the route of the Pennine Bridleway National Trail through Long Preston; the new YDNPA Local Plan; and the Authority recording its own meetings.
Further cuts in funding –
David Butterworth, the YDNPA chief executive, agreed with Cllr Blackie that if there was a further 40 per cent cut in the grant from Defra the Authority would not be able to carry out its statutory responsibility.
Cllr Blackie made this statement after a representative of Deloitte LLP had given a summary of the External Audit Report for the year ended March 31 2015.
Judith Donovan complimented the Authority’s finance and resources team for being given such a glowing report by the auditors.
She added, however: “I know it’s a pointless exercise and I raise it every year but I would like to put on record that I think the fee (£12,103) is appalling.” This was Deloitte LLP’s last year as external auditors for the Authority.
Long Preston and the Pennine Bridleway –
The majority of members agreed that flashing signs on the A65 at Long Preston to warn motorists about horse riders would be preferable to starting a legal process which could culminate with farmland being compulsory purchased.
The director of park services, Kathryn Beardmore, had recommended altering the route of the Pennine Bridleway National Trail so that horse riders did not have to travel along 170m of the A65 at the east end of Long Preston. But as agreement had been reached with the landowner of just one short section of the alternative Trail route she asked the Authority to agree to the principle of the officers pursuing a Creation Order which would, if completed, give them the legal right to compulsory purchase the land needed.
The Secretary of State approved the Trail in 1995 when it had been expected that a bypass round Long Preston would be created. The Trail is now in use and North Yorkshire County Council has stated that due to the high density of traffic on the A65 that 170m section was “not viable from a safety perspective”. Even on the proposed alternative route there would have to be a dedicated crossing point on the A65 for horses and riders.
Ms Beardmore said that officers had been discussing alternative routes with landowners and farmers for five years but could not reach agreement. Edward Wilkinson told the Authority that the route officers had now decided upon would go through the main part of his farm and would have a bad impact upon the fields that he used at lambing and calving times as it would also attract a large number of dog walkers and cyclists.
He explained that there were health and safety issues relating to traversing fields where there were cows with young calves as well as the danger of ewes being disturbed and so miss-mothering their lambs.
He added: “One of the main concerns is from dog fouling. There are a number of diseases, particularly abortion in cattle and sheep which is directly linked to dog faeces.” At present there is no right of way across those fields.
Several members agreed with Richmondshire District councillor Carolyn Thornton-Berry that a similar warning system to that used on the A66 at the time of Appleby fair was a good option especially as it would also act as a traffic calming measure and so benefit local residents.
North Yorkshire County Councillor Roger Harrison-Topham said he gave up on the recommendation for a Creation Order when Ms Beardmore stated that there was a “moral” obligation to do so because Natural England had spent £3.5 million on the Trail.
“If anybody goes and spends three and a half million pounds without being certain that they are going to be able to achieve their objectives they are idiots. And there is no obligation on us or anybody else to pull Natural England’s chestnuts out of the fire … and ruining Mr Wilkinson’s farm,” he commented.
Ian McPherson summed up the reservations of the majority of the members when he said: “It is obvious and absolutely clear that the safety of horses and riders must be of paramount importance (but) at this stage I am not convinced that the recommendation is the correct way forward.”
He described the suggested traffic calming measures as very positive and referred to Ms Beardmore’s report where it stated that it was difficult to demonstrate there was any danger to horse riders due to the (low) level of usage. “We just don’t seem to have enough information to leave ourselves open to a very long extended complex procedure which could result in a very significant monetary loss,” he stated.
New Local Plan –
The committee agreed that parts of the Authority’s proposed new Local Plan can now be used when considering planning applications.
Peter Stockton, the head of sustainable development, reported that, in line with present government policy, this could be done even though the plan had not yet been approved by a planning inspector. In his report he listed what could and could not be considered when planning officers were giving pre-application advice.
For instance some weight can be given to the more flexible approach which will allow the conversion of appropriate roadside barns for local occupancy. But it was not recommended that applicants should be offered the choice of local occupancy or paying a conservation levy so that a converted barn could be later sold on the open market as there had been significant objections to this.
Cllr Lis, the Authority’s member champion for sustainable development, stated: “This report marks the end of formal representations and two years of consultation on the Authority’s local plan. Ours will be the first National Park Local Plan to be submitted to the government since national policy was overhauled in 2012.
“Our new policies contain additional flexibilities in important areas such as economy, farm and rural estate development, tourism as well as, of course, housing.”
He said that in creating such flexibilities and opportunities the Authority was taking some risks. He added: “This is the right time to do this. It sends out a clear message that the Authority is serious about pushing the sustainable development agenda forward rather than just waiting for planning applications to come in.
“There are still some areas where we have to be cautious as we have had some significant objections to our new policies,” he warned.
Recording meetings –
It wasn’t surprising that Cllr Blackie very strongly supported the recommendation that audio recordings should be made of planning and authority meetings.
He commented: “When people want to report me to the Standards Committee, they’ll know exactly what I did say rather than what they thought I said, or put words in my mouth.” He relied on ARC News Service recordings when he defended himself at a hearing of the YDNPA Standards Committee following a complaint against him.
All agreed to approve the amendments to the Standing Orders which included allowing microphone recording equipment to be installed. This will bring the Authority in line with the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014. Mr McPherson and Jocelyn Manners-Armstrong asked that the recordings should be kept for longer than 12 months and this was accepted.
There were discussions about the extension of the Yorkshire Dales National Park on August 1, how members are selected, and how planning decisions will be made for the areas which will become part of the National Park.
More money and more members have been allocated to the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority when the area it covers is increased by 24 per cent on August 1.
Even the Chief Executive, David Butterworth, did not expect to receive so much additional funding and he commented:“That’s down to a range of factors not least the chairman’s persistent lobbying, publically, formally and informally on behalf of the National Park and its communities – coupled with the fact that we now have a minister for the National Parks who is very understanding and supportive.”
The chairman, Peter Charlesworth reported that the Authority would receive, in effect, an extra million pounds compared to what they had anticipated. The Authority had expected a cut in its grant from Defra and the staff had prepared for that.
Craven District Councillor Carl Lis pointed out, however, that the Authority would still be receiving less money than it had five years ago. He believed that one reason they were given such a favourable settlement was because the Authority had built up its own income generation. This had to continue he said.
Mr Charlesworth had also lobbied hard for the existing membership of the National Park to be increased so that all areas could be represented.
The government has decided that there will be three new members representing Eden District Council, the City of Lancaster, and Lancashire County Council. Mr Butterworth told members that if the Government’s proposal was accepted the new board of 25 members could be in place by August 1.
“For me this is absolutely critical because the board will be taking decisions on the new area – planning and other decisions. If we do not have representation from that area I think that would be a pretty horrific state of affairs.” Members agreed with him that the Authority should request that the size of the board be re-evaluated after three years.
About the extension Mr Butterworth commented: “I really do think this is a fantastic opportunity for the National Park, the National Park Authority and the new communities. There is the opportunity for those communities to learn from the existing work that has been done within the current National Park, but also an opportunity to look at how things are done differently in the extension which hopefully will lead to better results in future for the whole of the National Park.
“I think it’s important that as a National Park Authority, we treat the new area the way we would expect to be treated. There’s a number of existing organisations, individuals, companies and local authorities which are operating in that area – operated well for some considerable time. So we’ve got a real period of learning. It’s not a question of going in there wearing a pair of size 15 boots and saying ‘we know best’, because we don’t.”
He said they would need to create the space so that they had time to understand the issues, the hopes and aspirations of the people that live and work in the new area. He was especially excited about the Westmorland Dales Hidden Landscapes (HLF Landscape Partnership). This, he reported, was an ambitious programme of activities being developed by an informal partnership of organisations led by the Friends of the Lake District.
“For me it’s a really good opportunity to have a flagship project involving a whole range of communities and organisations in the area, to show the difference being in a National Park can make,” he said. The members agreed to support this Partnership. This means that if the Partnership’s bid for Heritage Lottery funding is successful the YDNPA will allocate £20,000 to the development phase and £120,000 to the implementation phase.
Questioning the Powers that Be:
Both Mr Charlesworth and Mr Butterworth had complained to the government about the selection process for choosing new members of the Authority. Mr Butterworth had even used the phrase “bordering on the corrupt”!
Mr Charlesworth and several other chairmen of National Park authorities had met with a senior civil servant to discuss how the Secretary of State appointees were selected.
“One of the complaints we had was that we were not allowed to say who we preferred and who we thought were the best candidates – which we thought was nonsense. My main concern was that until this week we were faced with having members from Cheam in Surrey and from Peterborough.” It was not just a problem of their expenses but also their ability to attend meetings, he explained.
The civil servant had reiterated that these were national appointments and would not be chosen according to location. This week the YDNPA was informed that its two new members will be Jim Munday from Bentham and Neil Swain (of Swain Estate Management Ltd) from Upper Dunsforth near York. They will replace Chris Armitage and Mr Charlesworth.
Mr Butterworth reported that he had also complained about how member appointments were made. He told the meeting that when he was filling in a questionnaire for the National Audit Office he had described the process as “bordering on the corrupt”.
He explained that this was because those involved in the recruitment and selection of members didn’t make the final decision. They have to pass the list to someone else who then makes the decision. “That just strikes me in terms of even reasonable HR practice to be an absolute nonsense. I got a phone call yesterday summoning me to a meeting with the National Audit Office to explain why I described the process as bordering on corrupt,” he said.
From August 1 the YDNPA will become the planning authority for the areas within the new extension.
Gary Smith, the director of conservation and community, told the meeting that the YDNPA would try to minimise the disruption for those who had already made applications to their local authorities and is already working in a spirit of co-operation with those authorities.
Those local authorities are already viewing designation as a National Park as a material consideration when dealing with any applications that will be affected. Richard Graham, the head of development management, stated: “For that reason they are consulting us on all planning applications they receive in the extension areas up to 1st August so that we can give an opinion.”
Any applications made to Eden and South Lakeland District Councils which have not been determined by August 1 will be transferred on that date to the YDNPA. Lancaster City officers will continue to deal with any “live” applications but will then pass them to the YDNPA for final determination. After August 1 all applications will have to be made to the YDNPA.
Any existing Local Plans for Lancaster, South Lakeland and Eden (including the Upper Eden Neighbourhood Plan) will continue to apply and the YDNPA will use them to make decisions. The YDNPA’s own new Local Plan, once adopted, will only apply to the National Park area which existed before August 1.
Mr Smith reported that it was logical for the YDNPA to adopt the new Eden Local Plan once it had completed its examination. Eden District Council has been asked to remove the area north-east of Great Asby from its policies map as that will become part of the National Park. This is because it had been identified as suitable for medium- to large-scale wind energy and that would be in conflict with national park landscape designation.
For the areas joining the National Park on August 1 a number of permitted development rights will lost, including the conversion of farm buildings, warehouses and retail premises into dwellings. This includes any permission already granted under permitted development rights but not yet implemented. It will not be enough to start work on a barn conversion – it will have to be in use as a dwelling.
Mr Smith reported: “The difficulty is that, whilst the Authority would have the discretion to decide it was inexpedient to pursue enforcement in individual cases, it would be unlawful for the Authority to declare some sort of fixed period of ‘amnesty’. Unavoidably, therefore, relying solely on Authority discretion would create uncertainty. Discussions are, therefore, on-going between all the planning authorities, Defra and the DCLG (Department for Communities and Local Government) to ensure that impacts on those living and working in the extension areas are minimised.”
He added that the YDNPA’s Article 4 Direction which removed permitted development rights for the conversion of agricultural buildings to certain commercial uses would be limited to the existing National Park and would not apply in the extension area. This might be reviewed later.
Mobile phone masts:
Members were disappointed that the project by Arquiva to erect masts to ensure good mobile phone networks would not continue. “This is holding back the National Park areas,” commented Cllr Yvonne Peacock.
Mr Smith told the meeting: “It’s the same story across the country. I think the plan originally was for 600 sites across the country and I think they’re going to do 25 maybe in four years. So it’s pretty disastrous. It had nothing to do with us as a planning authority.”
Recognising the work of volunteers:
Frances Bland, who has been a Dales Volunteer for 11 years, has received national recognition within the individual category in the National Parks UK 2015 Volunteer Awards.
Mr Butterworth commented: “She is an absolutely outstanding individual. She has walked pretty much every footpath in the existing National Park and has just been asked to lead the condition surveys for the footpath network in the extension area in Cumbria and Lancashire. To see that recognised at national level is absolutely fantastic.
“What it represents to me is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the enormous and frankly wonderful volunteer effort that goes into making this National Park what it is.”
Rural communities and the need for affordable housing are not on the government’s radar it was stated at the on Tuesday, September 27. The heavy impact of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Extension on Authority’s staff was also described. The Authority said farewell to two long-standing members: North Yorkshire County Councillor Shelagh Marshall and Harold Brown.
The chairman, Cllr Lis, told the meeting that Harold Brown was one of the original members having started on the shadow authority in 1996.
“Since that time he has made an outstanding contribution to the National Park Authority and to the National Park and the Swaledale communities. He has held quite a number of positions within the Authority including serving as an excellent chairman of the planning committee and I [want to] acknowledge his time as my deputy chairman for four years from 2011 to 2015.
“We had an excellent personal relationship. Harold was always a man of great integrity and he brought that to our many conversations. I particularly want to highlight his invaluable advice and guidance to me on all matters to do with farming. That was so valuable, it really was. We have new members now who won’t get that same guidance. I think this Authority will miss him sorely.”
Cllr Blackie described Mr Brown as an absolute authority on farming. “He was always loyal to those communities that he proudly presented. He was also very highly regarded by his fellow members of the National Park including those who disagreed with his staunch local community view. He was a brilliant planning committee chairman. We are going to miss him.”
Cllr Shelagh Marshall
The Chief Executive, David Butterworth, reported that she had missed several Authority meetings this year due to a close family member being ill since Christmas 2015 and had decided to resign as of September 30.
Cllr Lis, told the Full Authority meeting: “She has been a very long serving member of the Authority although it has been in three separate terms, the first one of which started prior to the independence of the Authority in 1999.
“She then served from 2005 until 2009 and finally from 2013 until the end of this month. Shelagh has a massive amount of experience in local government at county and district level over the last 30 years.
“Not only has she been a passionate advocate for all matters in her local area but also on the national stage representing fairly recently the issues surrounding older people.
“This Authority has benefitted from all of that experience, bringing a depth of knowledge on a wide variety of subjects as well as a large amount of simple, plain common sense. We will miss that input.”
He thanked Cllr Marshall for all the time and effort she had invested in the Authority.
The Chief Executive, David Butterworth, commented that housing policy in this country was determined at national level which meant that rural areas were dealt with in the same way as those in the cities.
“So what we have is no government interest in affordable rural housing,” he said.
Both he and Cllr Marshall quoted figures from the 2001 census and that in 2011. These showed that 1,000 homes were built in the Yorkshire Dales during that decade but the population went up by only 100.
Mr Butterworth continued: “The reason behind that is that the amount of second homes and holiday homes in the National Park is going through the roof – from 15 per cent to 23 per cent and climbing. But nobody is interested in doing anything about it. Let’s not go away with the idea that the National Park Authority can fundamentally solve the housing problem in this area because we don’t live in that kind of country.
“Until there is recognition that housing matters in rural areas like this and the control of them should be given to local communities we are going to be like this for the next ten to 20 years.”
Cllr Peacock said that landowners were holding back from selling land for affordable housing because the government kept announcing different plans. The landowners, therefore, felt that they might get a better deal if they waited a bit longer.
The YDNPA has inherited an example of how government directives undermine attempts to provide affordable housing. When a developer applied to convert the former accommodation buildings at Casterton School into 17 dwellings, South Lakeland District Council negotiated a financial contribution towards its affordable housing fund. But in May this year the Government introduced the Vacant Building Credit which reduced affordable housing contributions.
As this meant that there would be no contribution from the Casterton School development the planning application was refused. The developer has now appealed. Although this development is now within the National Park the YDNPA has delegated that appeal and any costs involved to South Lakeland.
The National Park uses local occupancy agreements to try and stop new dwellings becoming second homes or holiday homes.
Cllr Blackie told the meeting that another three couples had left Arkengarthdale because they couldn’t find housing and the school now had only 14 pupils. “There is a lot of worry amongst the local communities that we will not have any local young families left,” he said.
He pointed out that in the Defra “Eight-Point Plan for England’s National Parks” there wasn’t one single use of the word “community”. “Community doesn’t seem to be on Defra’s radar. The contribution [communities] make to the work of the National Park is not recognised in London,” he said.
Peter Stockton, the head of sustainable development, reported that when the YDNPA’s proposed new Local Plan was examined by a Planning Inspector during public hearings in July one of the main issues was whether the Authority would be able to meet its target of 55 homes being built each year. (This includes barn conversions.)
The Authority had told the Inspector that it preferred a flexible approach and did not want to specify the locations where those homes would be built. Mr Stockton said: “It’s a big step for us to set a housing target and it does come with some risks.”
In his report he stated: “We anticipate that the Inspector will ask the Authority to undertake an early review of its housing supply to ensure we can maintain a rolling five-year supply of housing land, to meet the target of 55 new dwellings per year.”
The Inspector had suggested some modifications to the proposed Local Plan and within a few weeks details of those will be on the Authority’s website. There will then be a six-weeks consultation period. Mr Stockton said it was hoped that the Local Plan could be adopted at the December meeting of the full Authority.
The extension of the National Park has led to the YDNPA inheriting 42 planning applications from Eden District Council, 12 from South Lakeland and one (plus one appeal) from Lancaster City. It also has at least 12 enforcement cases to deal with nine being already received from Eden DC and three from South Lakeland.
The YDNPA workload has been further increased by the need to update the planning and enforcement register. On August 1 over 10,000 planning records for the extension area were transferred to the YDNPA from four local authorities. The head of development management, Richard Graham, reported that this has become a difficult, expensive and complicated task as the records had come in different formats. The amount of work, he said, was in excess of that predicted.
In addition the YDNPA inherited something it had never dealt with before – a Neighbourhood Development Order (NDO).
It was accepted that the NDO for Carr House, Mallerstang, was procedurally compliant. The Authority will, therefore, publish it for public inspection and representations over a six week period, and then appoint an independent examiner with the consent of Kirkby Stephen Town Council.
It will be up to the examiner if there should be a local referendum to decide if Carr House, an unoccupied former dwelling in the open countryside, can become a holiday let or a local occupancy home. No planning application will be required but the Authority may well question if the reinstatement of Carr House conforms with the Eden Development Plan.
Coast to Coast
It was agreed that the Authority should support the campaign to make Wainright’s Coast to Coast walk a National Trail.
The need for affordable homes in the Yorkshire Dales National Park cannot be met according to Simon Berkeley who inspected and approved the YDNPA’s new Local Plan.
Following confirmation that the Plan was sound and legally compliant the members of Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority unanimously voted on Tuesday, December 20, to adopt it. This Plan does not include the areas added to the National Park in August this year.
Mr Berkeley noted in his report that there would be a degree of dependency on “windfall sites” to fulfil the Authority’s target of 55 new dwellings each year. Of those only 15 to 17 would be affordable homes which would not meet the shortfall of around 117 that were needed each year.
He stated: “I consider the Plan’s shortcomings in relation to affordable housing should not lead to it being found unsound. It will be better to have this Plan in place than none at all.”
Cllr Blackie warned, however, that it was very difficult for small affordable housing developments in the Yorkshire Dales to gain the support of Housing Associations due to the problem of economic viability.
He explained that Richmondshire District Council had offered a site free of charge in Langthwaite, Arkengarthdale, for the construction of four affordable houses. But without the support of a Housing Association there was no chance of the development going ahead, he said.
Peter Stockton, the head of sustainable development, assured the leader of Richmondshire District Council, Cllr Yvonne Peacock, that the Authority would continue to try and find a solution.
After the meeting, she said: “The district council is working very hard to ensure we do have some affordable or local need houses for Arkengarthdale.”
The Authority members made it very clear that any solution for the housing problem had to be “Plan-led”, and so were unanimously in favour of requesting an Article 4 Direction to ensure that the owners of office buildings in the National Park will have to apply for planning permission to convert them into dwellings.
This is because from October 2017 until October 2020 the Government will allow office buildings of 500sq m or less to be converted under general permitted development.
The Authority’s planning policy officer, Thomas Harland, described the target of 55 new homes a year as ambitious and added: “There will be increasing pressure on the supply of land and buildings for housing in the National Park so, in that sense, any source of additional housing supply is to be broadly welcomed.”
He did note that this had to be balanced with the need to retain employment – and it was that which Cllr Blackie and Jocelyn Manners-Armstrong emphasised.
Contrary to Mr Harland’s recommendation Cllr Blackie called for the Authority to ask for an Article 4 Direction so that, within the National Park, planning permission would still be required.
He pointed out that 60 jobs could be lost at the Upper Wensleydale Business Park in Hawes and he stated: “We lose these [offices] at our peril.”
Mrs Manners-Armstrong said: “We have only a few light industrial sites and it is important that we protect them. We have just approved the Local Plan and this [Government) policy will contradict it. If we are serious about our policies we should defend them. We have to protect the economic future of our communities.”
The request for a non-immediate effect Article 4 Direction will need to go out for consultation and then be approved by the Secretary of State. It will come into effect 12 months after that approval.
From October 2017 until that time the Authority could still block the change of use on the basis that an office was within an area providing important industrial services and residential dwellings there would have an adverse impact upon its sustainability.