ARC News Service reports on the virtual meeting of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s (YDNPA) planning committee on 6 October 2020 when the following were discussed: a farm visitor attraction at Grassington; the future of Linton Camp at Linton; barn conversion applications regarding Gawthrop near Dent, and at Braidley in Coverdale; a new agricultural barn at Askrigg; and more solar panels on the YDNPA office roof at Bainbridge.
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.
All but one of the committee voted to approve a farm visitor attraction with agricultural museum, whisky distillery and tea room at Gam Farm even though there were warnings that Grassington could be overwhelmed with traffic.
‘Grassington will wonder what’s hit it,’ commented member Askrigg Parish councillor Allen Kirkbride about the increase in traffic that could be expected following the new series of All Things Great and Small. And North Yorks County councillor Robert Heseltine warned that the visitor attraction at Gam Farm could also become very popular.
Which was why Craven District councillor Richard Foster was very concerned about the impact on Grassington. ‘I do see the need for diversification. I do see that this could be a benefit to Grassington. But the main street is one car wide with cars going up and down.’ He agreed that people should be encouraged to park at the National Park’s car park and then walk along Main Street to Gam Farm.
The planning officer reported that North Yorkshire County Highways Authority had stated, following a transport assessment commissioned by the applicants, that it didn’t expect the increase in traffic through Grassington to be significant.
Grassington Parish councillors had been divided with some supporting the application and others being very concerned about the increase in traffic and parking at Grassington.
The application included a 25 space car park to the immediate north of the farmstead with 11 overspill spaces to the rear of the whisky distillery.
One of the owners of the farm, Chris Wray, told the committee: ‘We will encourage everybody to park at the bottom of the village … and everybody will be encouraged to see this as a day out in Grassington and to walk up through the town.’
He explained that he and his wife had built up the farm from 10 acres about 17 years ago to 235 acres now. ‘It is now home for a whole variety of rare breeds which includes sheep, goats, pigs, poultry and cattle. We are particularly proud of our cattle as we have northern dairy shorthorn [Dales Dairy Shorthorn]. These cattle were virtually extinct but we have built up a herd of 60 cattle and it is one of the largest herds in the country.’
He added that the farm was not viable with livestock sales alone. ‘I have to emphasise how everything has to link together and unless we join everything else together it will fail.’ The application included an agricultural worker’s dwelling because, he said, it was absolutely essential to live on site.
The planning officer stated that the Wrays will specialise in traditional farming practices and rare breeds and an agricultural surveyor had confirmed that the existing farm was large enough to require 1.4 full time workers and, therefore, a dwelling. The planning officer said the four-bedroom dwelling would be relatively large but there were substantiated personal circumstances which included the possibility that the principal worker would require assistance sometimes at unsociable hours.
Residents had been concerned about the scale, height and prominence of the house due to it being on the brow of a hill. The planning officer reported that the building had been reduced in height and the design had been simplified so that, within the context of the farmstead, it would not have an adverse landscape impact.
She said modern farm buildings will be converted to create the tea room, the farming museum, a stable, a craft display area and storage for the whisky distillery. A new large building will house the distillery and, once the open farm is operational, visitors will be able to taste and purchase it.
As the whole farm is on the brow of the hill the owners have agreed to extensive tree planting to screen the site.
Permission was granted for a 67 bedroom visitor complex with a spa, a gym, a bar and a restaurant to replace the now derelict Linton Camp even though there were many objections from local parish councils.
Ms G Wilkins, who spoke on behalf of the Linton community, told the committee: ‘Running a hotel and spa at this scale would require around the clock activity creating noise and light pollution and thereby destroying the tranquillity of the area.’ It would, she said, have a detrimental impact upon the local Dark Skies Festival for generations to come.
Linton Parish Council had informed the Authority that it considered the amount and scale of the proposed development to be excessive and inappropriate in such a rural location within the National Park. It stated: ‘Government planning policy advises that such major developments should be refused in National Parks unless there are exceptional circumstances. No such circumstances exist.’
At the meeting the chairman of the Authority, Neil Heseltine, said there were many concerns about the scale of the development and asked for clarification about the definition of a major development.
The head of development manager, Richard Graham, responded that there were two pieces of legislation referring to ‘major developments’. In the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) it was defined as a test as to whether or not a development, due to its scale and setting, would have a significant adverse impact that would compromises the purposes of a designated special landscape. According to the NPPF it was up to the planning authority to decide if a proposal was a major development or not. He continued:
‘Officers do acknowledge that [this] is a relatively large development in a sensitive landscape. However, because of the nature and the setting of the site and the nature of the proposals we believe that the effects… can be mitigated such that they wouldn’t have a significant adverse impact…’
Under another piece of legislation, he said, a major development was categorised as being over 1000 sq m or more than 10 dwellings. ‘Because the same term is used its often confused that the major development test refers to anything that’s over 1000 sq m or over 10 dwellings. That’s not the case. It’s a decision made based on the nature, scale and setting and potential impact of the development would have. As officers we considered that this proposal isn’t a major development.’
Craven District councillor Richard Foster was obviously not fully convinced for later he pointed out that an application to extend a caravan site had been refused on the basis of being a ‘major development’. ‘This seemed to be not major because it was a derelict site,’ he said.
Cllr Kirkbride commented that some years ago there had been a lot of objections to the development of a derelict site in the centre of Askrigg. ‘One of our main arguments was traffic – that cars would be going in and out endlessly. The fact of it is that you don’t notice its there. A lot of people park up for days at a time and they go out walking. They have brought an awful lot of financial input in the Upper Dale. The development has been nothing but a success in Wensleydale.’ He said he was impressed at the lengths the developers had gone to to hide the site near Linton.
Richmondshire District councillor John Amsden commented that the site was an eyesore and something had to be done with it. To that Cllr Robert Heseltine responded: ‘This site has shamefully been neglected with virtually no management or care for many decades,’ and asked if, by approving the application, the owners were being rewarded for having let the site become an eyesore.
The planning officer told the committee that Linton Camp, which was established in 1939 to provide holiday accommodation for city children, was classed in the Local Plan as an allocated business opportunity site which included visitor accommodation. She stated the site was highly prominent in an attractive open landscape and that the proposed development was extensive with part of the hotel extending into the greenfield area. She said the height of the building had been reduced so that it would not be so visible and would have a curved grass roof the applicant had also reduced the number of units from 61 to 49 and the scale of the lodge developments, with the latter partially below the ground levels of those outside the site.
‘The siting of the buildings represents the most sensitive solution to ensuring that such buildings work with the topography to minimise their landscape impact,’ she said.
Neil Heseltine also asked what protocols the Authority had in place to ensure that all the conditions included in the approval of the application would be discharged.
The planning officer responded: ‘We will carefully word conditions to make sure they are carried out at the appropriate times in the development. Some will be at a relatively early stage and will need to be confirmed and the details agreed with us. We work with the developers very closely to make sure that the details are what we anticipated when permission was granted. If conditions are not complied with we have the option to enforce those conditions.’
Lancashire County councillor Cosima Towneley stated: ‘I will support this on the grounds that I think it is innovative – a very good plan and it will have long term gains for the National Park.’
The majority agreed and voted to give permission to the head of development management to complete all the detailed work on the application including conditions. These will include: tree planting and landscaping, archaeological evaluation and recording, lighting strategy [to try and minimise impact on Dark Skies], noise mitigation, and the implementation of a sustainable travel plan.
Thorpe Parish Meeting and Threshfield Parish Council had also objected to the application and, like Linton Parish Council, were especially concerned about traffic congestion on the narrow roads around the site. The very detailed objection from Linton Parish Council included photographs showing the problems that had been experienced in the last few years.
‘The sustained influx of visitors to the YDNP and to Linton specifically has placed a number of unbearable burdens on the local community. The local services are already failing to cope with visitor numbers. If approved the development would add a material, additional population to the village and broader area that is failing to cope with the current influx of visitors, traffic, litter and anti-social behaviour. We feel that this would irrevocably destroy the delicate fabric of the community that makes the Dales such a unique special place,’ It stated.
Gawthrop near Dent
The walk through Gawthrop near Dent has been described as one of the best in the Yorkshire Dales, member Ian McPherson told the committee.
He said this was a site of great tranquillity which exemplified the wild and peaceful beauty one expected in the National Park, and was of great interest both historically and topographically. That was why he, unlike the majority of the committee, could not support an application to convert Upper Barn at Combe House in Gawthrop into a three bedroom local occupancy dwelling or holiday cottage even though he accepted that a refusal could be overturned at appeal.
He referred to the objection made by the Friends of the Dales. Besides stating that this was a remote and beautiful location that had many features of high nature conservation importance the society also objected on the grounds that the barn did not meet the definition of ‘roadside’.
Cllr Amsden also queried this. The planning officer replied that the policy was that a traditional barn was either roadside or within a building group to be eligible for conversion. She said that Upper Barn formed a group of buildings with Combe House.
She stated that the conversion of the building to a dwelling house or a holiday let would ensure the long-term future of the listed building. ‘Without such a use, the building is likely to deteriorate over time. There is, therefore, no satisfactory alternative.’
Dent Parish Council had objected on the grounds that the barn was a heritage asset and that the planned work would be detrimental and disproportionate to such an asset. The parish council also has a policy not to support any applications for short term (holiday) lets in Dentdale as it considers the number of these to be excessive.
The planning officer reported that the barn had been altered in 2005 when permission was granted to convert the barn into an ancillary domestic store and dwelling (the latter did not take place).
New openings had been inserted then and the planning officer had insisted that the insertion of any more would be harmful to the significance of the building. But as the barn had been re-roofed she believed there would be no loss of historic fabric by installing three rooflights. She added: ‘The harm caused to the listed building through the insertion of rooflights would be less than substantial when weighing against the public benefits of securing its optimum viable use.’
The latest plans were also amended to reduce the amount of curtilage. She reported that there was a public right of way immediately behind the barn where the proposed new curtilage will be. However, a diversion order (not yet legally sealed) has been made to redirect the path further to the east. The only advice was that the public right of way should remain free from obstruction.
Braidley in Coverdale
Before the committee could discuss an application to convert a barn near Braidley in Coverdale into a local occupancy dwelling or holiday let the chairman, Julie Martin, stated: ‘I just want to make a few comments myself as cultural heritage champion not least because the … building conservation officer is unhappy about this one. I do feel that it is unfortunate that this application has come forward in this form.
‘I know the site … I have gone past there many times and it is very isolated and very prominent in the landscape. I do feel as our planning officer clearly does that [this] is too intensive a development for this site. The application doesn’t fully meet the requirements of our design guide and that is disappointing. Having said that I do think it is entirely possible that a smaller modified, more sensitive set of proposals would be suitable for us to approve.’
The planning officer said several times that the barn was on a sloping site and would, therefore, result in landscape harm due to what he described as a large curtilage, enlarged windows and three rooflights, especially as it could be seen from a footpath 300m away on the opposite side of the River Cover.
The majority of the committee voted to refuse the application.
Farmer Richard Scarr was told he would have to provide further plans to show how the impact of a replacement barn on the landscape of Upper Wensleydale could be reduced.
A planning officer said that Mr Scarr wanted to replace a semi-derelict traditional stone barn with a larger modern one but, as it was in an isolated and prominent position, it would cause real landscape harm. For that reason he recommended that Mr Scarr’s application should be refused.
Mr Scarr told the committee: ‘I am a four-generation farmer. We are traditional Dales farmers keeping Swaledale sheep and selling lambs in the local mart at Hawes. We have traditional hay meadows which we cut for hay each year. Since my childhood the hay has always been stacked in the field barn. We feed the hay to the sheep in winter and by the spring the barn is empty and is used for lambing. This barn has fallen into disrepair with the roof collapsing. We propose to replace it with a new building serving the same purpose.
‘This will enable us to continue the traditional practice of hay making to conserve the species in the hay meadows and avoiding the plastic black bales and secure the continuous traditional farming practices.’
He said he had already agreed to reduce the size of the new building, to increase the cladding and to stone face the north elevation, plus carrying out expensive tree planting.
He continued: ‘The location is very important. It makes not only storing hay easier but also feeding it to the sheep in winter, and lambing my sheep in the spring. Over the years working in the lower fields has provided an opportunity to engage with visitors using the public footpath. This is something I have personally enjoyed and also gives lots back to the visitors who can understand a traditional dales farm and be in connection with those who live and work here. Losing this would be a genuine loss to me and to those who enjoy visiting the National Park.’
Cllr Kirkbride commented: ‘As far as I can see he has done everything he can to make sure that this barn fits in and doesn’t stand out like a sore thumb.’
He pointed out that just over half a mile away there was another brand new barn that stood out just as much as Mr Scarr’s would.
Cllr John Amsden agreed. ‘There’s quite a lot of barns been put up in the last couple of years. I can see one from the top of my land on the other side of the dale which sticks out like a sore thumb because it’s on the hilltop…. we also have the National Park building … which sticks out. By the time the trees have grown up I think [Mr Scarr’s] will fit in. It serves the farmer’s purposes.
Cllr Robert Heseltine, however, commented that with modern tractors hay could easily be stored at the farmstead. The planning officer had said that there would be support for a new barn at the farmstead. ‘Two wrongs don’t make a right. We are not in the business of providing sore thumbs in a protected landscape,’ Cllr Heseltine said.
Cllr Cosima Towneley retorted: ‘We need to take a pragmatic view of this. Farming does not stand still. This is not a chocolate box landscape. People have to live. ‘
Ian McPherson proposed deferral and stated: ‘I would personally like to see if there is a way the construction of the building can be ameliorated to make it more compatible with the natural environment.’ And the majority agreed.
It didn’t take long for the committee to approve permission for 37 additional solar panels on the rear (south) roof slope of the YDNPA office premises (Yoredale) in Bainbridge. These will have black frames and low reflectivity glass to match the appearance of the existing panels.
A planning officer stated that the application was a direct consequence of the Authority adopting a ‘Carbon Reduction Plan’. He said Yoredale was a large modern office building within the conservation area of Bainbridge. The south facing roof was visible at close range from Cam High Road but not from medium to long distance views.
Bainbridge Parish Council had objected to the installation of so many solar panels on that roof believing them to be an eyesore to anyone using Cam High Road and nearby footpaths, negatively affecting the visual amenity of the area.
At the meeting Cllr Kirkbride commented: ‘An awful lot of hikers walk up that road and they look directly onto it. People pass in cars. I have no problem with solar panels – I may have a problem with the number of solar panels they want to put on.’
And another member, Jim Munday, said: ‘I’m all for carbon reduction … but in my opinion the two items of modern technology that blight our National Park [because] they are intrusive and unsightly [are] mobile phone masts and solar panels. At the moment they seem to be necessary evils but we must encourage development to less intrusive solutions to the problems of telecom and power generation to minimise the impact of those by better siting and design.’
Low Row, Swaledale
The committee quickly approved an amendment to the application from Hazel Brow Farm Visitor Centre which was approved in March for a path to be relocated so that it wouldn’t affect the amenity of a neighbouring dwelling.
The footpath will provide access from the visitor centre with holiday accommodation to the main road in Low Row.