ARC News Service reports from the meeting of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s ( YDNPA )planning committee on Tuesday, March 7 when the following were discussed: A glamping extension to Aysgarth Lodges Holidays; the temporary rural worker’s accommodation at Kidstones Gill Bridge in Bishopdale; housing to replace Orton Works at Reeth; and the proposed conversion of a barn near Dent.
At the end of the meeting the four district councillors who were leaving the authority due to the creation of a unitary authority (Cllrs John Amsden, Richard Good, Sandy Lancaster and Carl Lis were thanked by the chair, Neil Swain, and applauded by the rest of the members.
ARC News Service is part of the commitment of the Association of Rural Communities to local democracy and the reporting is done on a voluntary basis by Pip Pointon.
One of the very noticeable aspects of this meeting was how limited the photographs were in what they showed. For the application by Aysgarth Lodges Hotel the planning officer showed only two photos, both from north of the site. One showed the road junction with the A684 and the other of a nice green field with trees in the background. The officer explained that those trees screened the proposed glamping site. There were no photos of the luxury lodge site from the south side of Bishopdale. Above: The lights of the luxury lodge site are very visible at night, as shown in the centre of this photograph.
For the application about the temporary rural worker’s accommodation at Kidstones Gill Bridge the planning officer showed just a location map and one of the chalet. But no photos to show the area where the chalet is sited.
One member pointed out that very few photos were shown of Birchentree Barn at Cowgill, Dent.
Westholme – between Aysgarth and West Burton
The site of Aysgarth Lodges Holidays was compared to Blackpool illuminations or Christmas lights.
‘Talk about light pollution, that is absolutely ridiculous,’ Richmondshire District councillor John Amsden told the committee. But that view of the luxury lodge site was not shown to the committee members by the planning officer.
The majority of the committee accepted the planning officer’s recommendation to approve the application by Leisure Resorts Ltd to remove two holiday lodges at the northern edge of the site and to replace them with six glamping pods. The planning officer showed only two photos – see above.
The ‘local’ members – North Yorkshire County councillor Yvonne Peacock, Richmondshire District councillors John Amsden and Richard Good, and parish council representative Allen Kirkbride from Askrigg – objected to approving the application. Cllrs Peacock and Amsden said photographs should have been taken from the other side of Bishopdale.
They also emphasised the road safety issues. ‘It’s disappointing that the narrowness of the road [from the site] wasn’t shown,’ said Cllr Peacock. Mr Kirkbride agreed and added: ‘My main concern is safety. You have to go 300m up the A684 before you get to a footpath and that section is a fast piece of road and it is dangerous.’
Cllr Peacock pointed out the unusual event of two parish councils objecting to an application. In its objection Burton cum Walden Parish Council agreed with Aysgarth and District Parish Council about the hazardous impact of the increase of pedestrian and vehicular traffic along the narrow road leading to and from the site and along the A684.
Like Cllr Peacock Burton cum Walden Parish Council was worried about flooding as there had been so much in the past at Eshington Bridge. The parish council was also concerned about the capacity of the existing cesspit. It stated: ‘We have received reports from local residents walking in the area about the unpleasant smell from this pit and the possibility that sewage is overflowing into Bishopdale Beck. Any increase would make the situation worse. Also, we have never been able to discover how the contents of the numerous hot tubs already on the site are disposed of.’
Commenting on that at the meeting Cllr Amsden said: ‘I am sick of everybody blaming farmers for pollution.’
Aysgarth and District Parish Council had also stated that the site had a long history of providing accommodation for static and touring caravans, as well as tents, with minimal impact on the surrounding area. It added: ‘In 2007 all that was lost to the area with the conversion to use for holiday lodges only.
‘The site … is now more akin to a small urban housing development which, when viewed from across the valley, is lit up like a Christmas tree. The site is already much bigger than the original caravan park and has a detrimental impact on the dark sky initiative. Any further expansion would be an over development of the site and add to that detrimental impact. To maximise return on their investment the owners might be better to look at reinstating some of the touring caravan and camping opportunities that were lost to the area by the earlier development.’
Other members of the committee, however, accepted the view shown to them by the planning officer. North Yorkshire Country councillor Richard Foster said that the site was not high profile, but added that he did not travel that way at night. He, like others, agreed that a wider selection of holiday accommodation was needed these days.
Originally Leisure Resorts Ltd had applied to install a further 11 pods in the field on the western side of the site but that has been withdrawn.
Kidstones Gill Bridge, Bishopdale
The possible support of the Authority’s planning officers for the construction of an rural worker’s cottage in Bishopdale was described as a ‘bit contradictory’ by Cllr John Amsden.
The majority of the members agreed temporary permission could be granted for 12 months for a chalet at Kidstones Gill Bridge while Robert and Helen Brown worked with the planning department on an application which would include a permanent rural worker’s cottage there.
Aysgarth and District Parish Council had strongly objected to extending planning permission for the chalet partly because the time allowed for a temporary dwelling had long expired. Cllr Yvonne Peacock told the committee: ‘The problem with this application is that it should have been enforced long before now. What has happened to the fact that they [Mr and Mrs Brown] were given permission for two cottages at Howsyke and they have never materialised?’
The planning officer explained that permission was granted in 2017 for two rural workers’ cottages at Howsyke in Bishopdale as part of the development of that site. She stated: ‘The case presented in the 2017 application was that the applicants [Mr and Mrs Brown] would live in the farmhouse at Howsyke and the business would be grown to increase ewe numbers from 100 to 1000. Suckler calves would be purchased each autumn.’
She added that planning permission was granted for the temporary accommodation at Kidstones Gill Bridge in 2019 and that expired in December 2020. ‘The siting of the chalet and its occupation has been unauthorised since that date. The intention was that the occupant would move back to Howsyke upon completion of the permanent dwelling, ’ she said.
Mrs Brown (who, with her husband, do not live at Howsyke) told the committee: ‘There have been huge changes made with our farming enterprise which has made us take stock. Our aim is to relocate one of the worker’s cottages we have permission for at Howsyke to Kidstones Bridge. If the temporary planning is not extended there is no alternative accommodation for the two [living there].’
When asked about the plan to have one of the cottages at Kidstones Gill Bridge the head of development management, Richard Graham, said: ‘There is an argument to have one permanent dwelling there …. our agricultural consultant is happy to go along with that rather than two at Howsykes. It is a large holding and a lot of land.’
Wensleydale farmer, Allen Kirkbride, who is a parish council representative on the Authority, commented: ‘They [Mr and Mrs Brown] had planned lots of sheep but it is more into game and wildlife than it was. They should have started at least one of the cottages at Howsyke.’
North Yorkshire County councillor Robert Heseltine and Cllr Amsden agreed with him that they did not want to see a new house built at Kidstones Gill Bridge. Cllr Amsden compared this to a farmer not being allowed to convert a barn which was in the middle of the field. ‘A bit contradictory I think,’ he remarked.
Cllr Heseltine asked how much acreage was being farmed at Howsyke and how much at Kidstones Gill Bridge. The planning officer replied that the rural worker was employed to manage 700 acres of land and 1400 acres of woodland and the work included the maintenance of the hydro-plant which is housed in a new barn beside the chalet.
As Kidstones Gill Bridge and Howsykes were only two miles apart neither Cllr Heseltine nor Mr Kirkbride could see any justification for a new dwelling at the former. And, like Cllr Amsden, Cllr Heseltine felt that a barn conversion would be more appropriate.
North Yorkshire County councillor Richard Foster, like others, felt he could approve a 12-month extension for the chalet especially as there was no other accommodation for the worker and his partner. And Jim Munday commented that enforcement action should be taken after a year if things weren’t sorted out.
At the end of the debate North Yorkshire County councillor David Ireton asked if this would be the final extension for the chalet. He did not receive an answer.
Orton Works at Reeth was an eyesore and the majority of residents were looking forward to getting the site tidied up, Richmondshire District councillor Richard Good told the meeting.
He also commented that, at his last meeting as a member, the committee was considering the most controversial application from his area since he had joined it. He said that some residents in Hill Close were understandably concerned as their homes would overlook the new development. Orton Works, which had been a builder’s yard until 12 years ago, is accessed via Hill Close.
The committee unanimously voted to approve the application to demolish the existing buildings and to construct three local occupancy dwellings. The planning officer told the committee that the original application had been for four houses but this had been amended.
The height of two had been increased, however, so as to accommodate a third bedroom in each roof space. Reeth, Fremington and Healaugh Parish Council was concerned about this additional height and some residents were worried about their homes in Hill Close being overlooked causing loss of privacy. The planning officer said that care had been taken to reduce opportunities for overlooking, overshadowing or loss of light to neighbours.
She added that if the site returned to being a builder’s yard or similar use the level of noise or disturbance to those living nearby would be unacceptable. The replacement of an employment site with local occupancy dwellings was, therefore, considered justifiable.
By a majority of just three votes the committee agreed that planning permission could be granted for the conversion of Birchentree Barn at Cowgill, Dent, for residential use. But this was against officer recommendation and Richard Graham said the decision would be referred back to the next meeting as he had significant concerns about the validity or soundness of the reasons put forward for approving it.
Three of those who voted to approve the application were district councillors Amsden, Good and Lancaster who will no longer be members of the Authority once the North Yorkshire unitary authority comes into existence on April 1.
The planning officer had recommended refusal because, he stated, the proposal would involve significant alterations and major structural work which would have an adverse impact on the heritage interest and traditional character of the building and the surrounding landscape. He said: ‘Given the amount of demolition and rebuild involved, the proposed development would be tantamount to the erection of a new dwelling in the countryside and, as such, contrary to the … Local Plan.’
Mr Graham told the committee that the policy to allow roadside barns to be converted was to secure a heritage asset and the demolition of two walls would not ensure that. He also said that there had been 13 barn conversions in Dentdale and there were two sites for new housing in Dent listed in the Local Plan.
South Lakeland District councillor Ian Mitchell said that those sites were never going to be developed for financial and legal reasons. He had asked that the planning committee should discuss the application as he wanted to see the building brought back into use rather than falling down and so help to provide housing for local people. He added: ‘I am sure this Authority can put conditions on the materials used to make sure it retains its traditional character.’ And Cllr Peacock observed that when rebuilding walls modern insulation could be installed.
Cllr Foster pointed out that a wall was likely to fall onto the road so something had to be done. Cllr Amsden commented: ‘If the wall fell on the road they would blame the farmer and his public liability would go through the roof.’ Instead, he said, the Authority should be aiming to bring the barn back into use and at helping the next generation to stay in the National Park.
Mr Graham said there was funding available to help farmers restore barns. This led to North Yorkshire County councillor Andrew Murday asking if a barn was restored to its original structure could the owner then apply to convert it into a dwelling. Mr Graham replied that would depend upon having retained the structural and heritage integrity of the barn.
“It just seems to me to be a bit illogical,’ responded Mr Murday.
Mr Graham said that a rebuilt barn would become a modern building and no longer a traditional one.
The parish council had recommended that the barn, when converted, should be restricted to local occupancy with a legal agreement. Mr Graham said that the Authority’s policy was that barn conversions should be for local occupancy or holiday let. ‘It’s not reasonable for the Authority… to restrict to local occupancy,’ he stated.
The planning officer had also recommended refusal because the Highways Authority had advised that there wasn’t sufficient visibility from the access due to the location of the barn on a bend on the unadopted road. Several agreed with Cllr Mitchell that the problem could be solved by installing a mirror on the opposite side of the road – a solution used by many others living in the dales.
When listing the suggested material considerations put forward to allow the members to approve the application against planning policy, the legal officer, Clare Bevan, added ‘I am not sure how’ regarding overcoming highway concerns. The other reasons were: to improve the condition of an abandoned building and bring it back into use; and the development providing additional housing for the village of Dent. Cllr Peacock asked that supporting local farmers should be included.