Reports by the ARC News Service on the meeting of Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s ( YDNPA ) planning committee on April 18 2023. The issues discussed were: local occupancy houses at Airton and Austwick; and the continuation of quarrying at Dry Rigg Quarry, Horton in Ribblesdale, plus the ‘catch-up’ review of enforcement.
Pip Pointon reports on these meetings on a voluntary basis as part of the commitment of the Association of Rural Communities (ARC) to local democracy.
At the beginning of the meeting the following statement was read by Alastair Dinsdale, chairman of the Association of Rural Communities:
‘At your last meeting members local to Wensleydale and Bishopdale pointed out that the photos shown regarding the Aysgarth Lodge application and the temporary chalet at Kidstones Gill Bridge (just two photos for each application) did not give a true picture of these within the landscape. And yet, when officers have recommended refusing applications for livestock sheds, barn conversions or camp sites, they have shown many photos from all angles and using various lenses to illustrate their argument that there would be a negative impact upon the landscape. This is neither fair nor consistent, nor in accord with the Authority’s obligation to conserve and enhance the landscape and scenic beauty of the Yorkshire Dales.’
This was the Authority’s response:
‘Planning officers provide photographs so that members of the committee can see the site from relevant vantage points. It is for members to decide whether they have sufficient information in front of them to make a decision, including whether there are sufficient photographs. Members always have the option of deferring consideration of the application for further information to be provided or alternatively for a committee site visit to be arranged.’
ARC’s comment: It is obviously very important that the members do carefully consider if the photographs they are shown clearly show the impact upon the landscape.
The majority of the committee agreed that three local occupancy houses can be built on the north-west corner of Hall Garth in the village even though Airton Parish Meeting had objected and a resident had told members that the access to the site would be too dangerous.
North Yorkshire councillor Simon Myers explained that, although he understood the concerns about traffic and safety, he was also aware that suitable houses were needed in the dales’ villages for young families. He added that the planning committee weren’t able to refuse an application unless it had sustainable reasons. The Hall Garth site, he said had been tried and tested by an inspector when the Local Plan (2015-2030) was being prepared and the Highways Authority had stated it was happy with the access. ‘I can’t see any sustainable grounds for refusing this application,’ he commented.
Airton resident Catherine Coward told the meeting: ‘I cannot overstate the danger of this access. Even if the walls were lowered completely one would not be able to see cars coming out of the dip and up the hill [to the access]. It is a narrow road with no pavement. The photos you have just seen do not show the level of that rise.’
She said that among those walking along that road were children going to the bus stop and added: ‘If this goes ahead there will be an accident – it is just a matter of time.’
She was also concerned about the visual impact of the three new terraced houses on the village. ‘Airton is a beautiful historic village which has remained virtually unchanged for centuries. If building is allowed in this important open space in the heart of the village it will irrevocably damage both the character and the landscape of this lovely village. This development is not appropriate and would not help the community but harm it.’
Airton Parish Meeting also had concerns about road safety and the likelihood of archaeological remains on the site, as well as Hall Garth having been designated on the Local Plan as an ‘important open space’ and so should, therefore, be protected in its entirety. It pointed out that the proposed development would not be completely within the area designated for local occupancy housing.
Charles Richardson, the applicant, told the meeting that his grandfather, John Richardson, had bought Hall Garth in 1935 and the ownership of it now was shared between the grandchildren and great grandchildren. Mr Richardson said: ‘I believe it was called Hall Garth because there was a large residential hall in the field many years ago. In the 1960s there was very very nearly a new school and housing development in the field. I believe the need for the school diminished and as a result nothing happened. So the field continued to be used for grazing as it is today.
His interest in affordable housing, he said, began with reading the Malhamdale Plan in 2005 and then a meeting at the YDNPA office in Bainbridge at which there was a call for building sites in the National Park. He explained that after the site in Hall Garth had been allocated for development in the Local Plan there had then been lengthy discussions with housing associations until finally he had submitted his own application. This was originally for four houses but was reduced to three as the planning officer said that the fourth house would have been too close and would have overlooked an existing property.
She told the meeting that two small sections would be outside the allocated site: a narrow strip on the eastern boundary to increase the size of the rear gardens and a strip to the south so as to create a better access. She believed these modest increases would not impact significantly on the character of the remaining large field.
The Highways Authority had agreed that the visibility from the access would be acceptable once the wall beside it had been lowered. Iron railings will be fixed on top so that it will be similar to the wall further south of the site.
Several members agreed with the proposal to provide local occupancy houses and although there were concerns about road safety, the opinion of the Highway Authority was accepted.
The committee was informed that, as there might be archaeological remains there, the site will be monitored when construction begins. The planning officer assured the committee that it would be kept informed if anything was found.
The committee unanimously approved the application for a housing development at Austwick which will now include properties more affordable to local people.
The latest proposal for eight houses to be built in Pant Lane was welcomed by Austwick Parish Council as it felt it was a better mix of housing and would benefit the community.
North Yorkshire councillor David Ireton agreed and stated: ‘[This] very much takes on board what the parish council would have accepted back in 2020. I am of a view that if developing properties in villages the provision of affordable housing should be delivered within that community. We shouldn’t be importing developments on communities, taking the money out and spending it miles away from them.’
The planning officer explained that the application approved in 2020 was for eight open market dwellings with a commuted sum being paid by the developer in lieu of providing on-site affordable houses. She said that the previous developer had, however, indicated that the required commuted sum would make the development unviable.
She said the latest application was by Venturi Homes with a different mix of eight homes: three open market; two shared/affordable ownership and three principal residency dwellings. She told members that the principal residency meant that the owners had to occupy the houses as their principal home and it was estimated this restriction reduced the open market value by up to five per cent.
She told the committee: ‘The original proposal … [was] unlikely to have a direct benefit for the immediate community of Austwick. The commuted sum… would also not necessarily cover the costs of developing four affordable houses elsewhere. The proposed amendment, however, would directly benefit the local community by providing two shared ownership affordable dwellings within the village, subject to a local connection clause which would prioritise those within Austwick Parish. The three principal occupancy dwellings would also provide permanently occupied two and three bed dwellings in the village, ensuring they cannot be second homes or holiday lets.’
Dry Rigg Quarry
Permission was again granted for a lateral and deepening extension of Dry Rigg Quarry until December 2034 after the planning officer argued that, despite having a detrimental impact upon the landscape, there was a regional and national need for the aggregate quarried there. Quarrying was due to end at Dry Rigg by December 2021.
The application by Tarmac Aggregates Ltd was first approved in June 2021 with the legal agreement completed in February 2022. This was quashed by the High Court in February this year following a Judicial Review which upheld the view of a local resident, Kate Smith, that the officer’s report had not expressly demonstrated exceptional circumstances for permitting a major development, that it did not expressly afford great weight to conserving and enhancing landscape and scenic beauty, and that the harm to the landscape was only considered in terms of visual impact.
Both Austwick and Horton in Ribblesdale Parish Councils objected to the latest application due to the lack of dust suppression and the impact of dust pollution on local residents. The Friends of the Dales objected to the apparently never ending postponement to the end of quarrying and restoration of the site; the impact of significant HGV movements; and the proposed lateral extension of the extraction area.
Member Mark Corner, who is a vice president of the Friends of the Dales, left the room before the application was discussed to avoid any potential bias, he said. He explained: ‘Before I became a member of the Authority in July 2020 I was an active trustee of the Friends of the Dales and was involved directly in their submission of objection to the original proposal in May 2020.’
In his lengthy report the planning officer quoted the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) that the exceptional circumstances for approving a major development within a National Park included a national need. He stated: ‘It is acknowledged that the proposal will have a detrimental effect on the visual quality of the landscape as a result of the creation of 140m of new quarry face [on Moughton Nab]. However, the effect of these works on the wider landscape character is less tangible and less severe as the character of the Ribblesdale landscape is typified by geology and natural features but also by human influence upon it in terms of settlement, farming and, critically, quarrying. The several historic quarries, including Dry Rigg, form a dominant visual presence in the landscape and are undeniably part of the landscape character of Ribblesdale.’
He stated that the quarry was one of the few in the country and of which there are only four in the north of England that produce the gritstone with the high polished stone value used for road and runway surfacing due to its high skid resistant properties. He said Tarmac had demonstrated the need for that aggregate and that the scope for mining it outside the National Park was extremely limited.
He also stated that quarrying at Dry Rigg supported 36 jobs and the local businesses that supplied it. He said: ‘In local terms 36 jobs represents a medium sized local employer making a significant contribution to the local economy and to the economic health and vitality of communities within the National Park. The proposal would guarantee the economic benefit for a further 13 years.
‘It is considered that great weight should be given to these national and local economic benefits.’
Stephen Cowan, who spoke on behalf of Tarmac, was accompanied by many of those who work at the Quarry. He said these included someone whose father and grandfather had worked there, one for 42 years. The owners of the quarry, he said, had a record of community involvement and funding large and small projects in the dales as well as working with Natural England and the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust. ‘We feel we are part of the National Park and part of its heritage,’ he commented.
Commenting on the presence of the employees North Yorkshire councillor Steve Shaw-Wright stated: ‘This does actually show that there is local employment with what I would term proper jobs with proper pay and prospects rather than minimum wage summer-time jobs.’
And North Yorkshire councillor Robert Heseltine said: ‘Agriculture and quarrying are the two traditional employment industries in the National Park.’ Like many other members he accepted the planning officer’s assessment of the national need and that approval of the application would be in accordance with the Authority’s policy.
Another North Yorkshire councillor, David Ireton, stated, however: ‘I voted against this application last time and there is nothing in this application that has changed my mind.’ Referring to the NPPF that great weight should be given to conserving and enhancing the scenic beauty of the National Parks he said: ‘I don’t see how this [application] does that. It completely ruins what we’ve got.’
North Yorkshire councillor David Noland agreed with him – and also with Kate Smith who had addressed the committee earlier. Cllr Noland said: ‘I don’t see how this delivers sustainable development. I don’t see how it conserves or enhances the landscape, or protects the special qualities of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. There is plenty of scope for [the aggregate to be quarried] elsewhere – and not in the middle of this glorious National Park. I think we are all aware of the damage being done to the environment.’
The conditions of the approved application include: restoration to be completed by December 2035; the hours when HGVs must not enter or leave the site or when blasting can take place; and a comprehensive scheme of controlling and monitoring dust.
Regarding the latter the chairman of the committee, Neil Swain, asked after the vote: ‘Can we monitor the road conditions between these two quarries to make sure they are kept clean because they have been known to be in a disgusting state at times. So please make sure they are monitored.’
When the Planning Enforcement Closures Report was presented Mr Swain commented that a number of applications had been hanging around a long time due to the Covid pandemic and he hoped this aspect of planning would get back to normal soon.
Some were registered in 2017 and were listed as being ‘regularised’. These included unauthorised building works (Bell Barn and Castle Folly) at Forbidden Corner in Coverdale.
It had been decided, however, that it was inexpedient to carry on with enforcement action concerning the unauthorised use of an agricultural building for residential purposes at Manor Grange Farm, Low Lane, Carperby. This was registered in June 2018. It was stated in the report: ‘Delayed decision due to sale of Yore Mill, Covid and owners’ personal circumstances.’