Reports by the ARC News Service on the meeting of Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s (YDNPA) planning committee on November 14th 2023 when the following were discussed: Dream Heritage CIC requesting permission for a caretaker’s flat in the old chapel Aysgarth; a barn conversion near West Burton; outline planning permission for ten new homes at Long Preston; a line of mirrors at a horse riding school at Malham; access to a holiday let at Burtersett; and the construction of new houses at Sedbergh.
Pip Pointon reports on a voluntary basis on these meetings as part of the commitment of the Association of Rural Communities to local democracy.
Permission was granted for what is intended as a caretaker’s flat in part of the old chapel at Aysgarth.
The committee had been informed that Dream Heritage CIC wanted to create a centre of excellence in Aysgarth for heritage skills, traditional crafts and youth worker training for the North of England.
Rebecca Watkins, a director of Dream Heritage CIC, told the committee that she had bought the chapel with her own money. She said that a caretaker was needed to ensure a Dream Heritage CIC project would be viable and to ensure the building was regularly maintained adding that the jobs would include traffic management.
She said the centre at Aysgarth was intended to serve not only the wider Dales communities but the community of North of England. ‘My aim is to empower the next generation to be catalysts for positive change, saving their heritage and community.’
In its strong objection to the application Aysgarth and District Parish Council stated: ‘The chapel was sold at a reduced price lower than market rate with a restrictive covenant for community use. The community has not been consulted about the potential use for the chapel.’
The planning officer reported: ‘While the proposed development does not constitute a community use … it is nevertheless considered to represent an appropriate use of the building which would conserve this non-designated heritage asset. The limited amount of residential accommodation to be provided [not more than 30 per cent of the gross internal floor area] is considered to be proportionate. It is considered that the conservation benefits of the proposed development outweigh the loss of potential community use.’
Aysgarth and District Parish Council had said that Aysgarth Institute provided well-used community facilities with the maintenance, cleaning, and other facilities being carried out by the committee and local volunteers. As the Institute did not require a caretaker it questioned why one should be needed at the old chapel to facilitate the provision of community use.
At the meeting Cllr Yvonne Peacock (North Yorkshire) pointed out that none of the local village halls or institutes in Wensleydale needed caretakers.
‘We don’t need a training centre in the middle of Aysgarth… because there’s no parking and there’s no infrastructure.’ She noted that the Dream Heritage courses in such skills as dry stone walling would cost much more than to attend the many already available in Wensleydale.
She also questioned the suggestion that people could park at the National Park Authority’s car park at Aysgarth Falls and walk about a mile to the chapel.
The Authority’s cultural heritage member champion, Cllr Libby Bateman (parish council appointee), said young people travelling to the training centre in Aysgarth could get there by bus or by taxi from Ribblehead Station (20 miles away) if they did not have a car.
She challenged Cllr Peacock about the need in the Dales for Dream Heritage’s proposed church support programme stating: ‘We are having a terrible time in Dent with a church building.’
Cllr Peacock had told the committee ‘[Dream Heritage] are coming because [they say] we are not keeping our churches correctly. In actual fact the churches have a professional team behind them.’
In its business plan Dream Heritage stated that among the problems and needs its centre in Aysgarth would solve were for church buildings and church congregations to be supported and guided into how best to look after their buildings, congregations and communities. ‘The maintenance of such buildings is somewhat left to unskilled and unknowledgeable clergy or lay people, and thus inappropriate or absent repairs and maintenance are done on the church building,’ it said.
Cllr Peacock pointed out that as the chapel had been bought by Ms Watkins there was nothing to tie its use to Dream Heritage or its business plan. She asked if there could be a legal agreement tying the caretaker’s flat to either the business use or for affordable local housing.
Richard Graham, the head of development management, replied that the conditions on the proposed approval covered this. These are: permission solely for specified mixed use and residential accommodation tied to main use.
Cllr Peacock asked the committee to refuse permission for the application but the majority of members went on to approve it.
Michael Bell won the support of the majority of members for his application to convert a barn on his farm near West Burton into his family home. But Mr Graham said that, as he had significant doubts about the reasons given for going against the officer’s recommendation to refuse it, the decision would be referred back to the next meeting (December 19th)
Mr Bell told the committee that his family had farmed in the area around Eshington Lane for over 100 years. He now had a successful sheep business which he hoped to increase.
He and his partner with their two children, however, lived in Leyburn. ‘The converted barn at Eshington would provide us with a family home close to the farm. I am sometimes driving to and from Leyburn two to three times a day.’
He said he had lost sheep over the years due to not being there or arriving too late and added that it was particularly difficult during the dark nights of winter.
As he had grown up in West Burton he had tried to buy a suitable property in that village but the prices had always been too high.
Burton cum Walden Parish Council supported his application stating: ‘Mr Bell… reassured the council that is concerns regarding problems with the provision of services such as water, electricity and telephone connection had been overcome satisfactorily.
‘Mr Bell also mentioned that this traditional, but now partly derelict, barn would not be significantly altered but would, in fact, be restored to its original appearance. The council was again assured that vehicular access would be restricted to the area of the new [agricultural] building in the field near the roadside of Eshington Lane with only a small footpath up to the barn.
‘In supporting this application, the council also took into account Mr Bell’s personal circumstances, in that he would be moving his young family back into the Dales, something that we understand is now an aim of the National Park Authority. The council felt it would also be better for the environment by reducing the numerous daily runs from Leyburn that Mr Bell needs to make to attend to his sheep, and also thereby reduce his overheads.’
Cllr Peacock asked the committee: ‘How many times have we been here trying to help farmers have somewhere to live where they can work in the middle of the night. He needs to be there.’
She said the application was well thought out, including storing waste bins in the agricultural building and continuing to use the parking space beside the agricultural barn.
The planning officer had stated: ‘This part of Bishopdale is aesthetically attractive, a beautiful pastoral landscape that is enjoyed by many visitors and residents. The landscape setting of the barn would be diminished significantly by this proposal due to changes to the appearance of the barn, the land around it and from light emanating from the building and site.’
Cllr Peacock pointed out the barn was close to a luxury holiday lodge site which was lit up like the Blackpool illuminations at night. For that reason the conversion of the barn would make little difference to view seen from the other side of the dale, she said.
Other members, however, argued that to approve the application would be against the Authority’s policy. They agreed with the planning officer that the barn was not within a settlement or a building group, nor could it be described as being ‘roadside’ being either close to a road or linked to one via an unsealed track.
Cllr Richard Foster (North Yorkshire) commented that approval had been given for barn conversions that were further away from roads.
And Cllr Graham Simpkins Westmorland and Furness) said: ‘I appreciate that it doesn’t fit with policies but that’s why we have a planning committee. If we follow policies to the letter there is no need for a planning committee. When we have policies that don’t quite fit we can discuss them and make sensible decisions based on particular facts, and this is one of those occasions when she should be looking at what the [result is] to the community.’
He mentioned the desperate need to bring young families back into the Dales and that the agricultural building was close to the road with a short footpath to the barn. He said he would prefer to see the barn retained as a heritage asset than left to fall down.
Cllr Bateman agreed because she felt that at some time in its history the barn had been a house. Mr Graham, however, said there was no evidence for that.
The committee approved the outline planning application for ten new homes at Long Preston.
Cllr David Ireton (North Yorkshire) commented: ‘This application seems to tick all the boxes for what we would expect on this site.’
The planning officer stated there would be two ‘First Home’ affordable houses, two apartments for affordable rent, six open market houses on land at Grosvenor Farm on Main Street. The two apartments would be transferred to a housing association to ensure they would remain available in perpetuity. And one of the open market houses would have a Principal Residence restriction requiring the home owner to occupy it as their principal home.
She explained that the site had been allocated for new housing development in the present Yorkshire Dales Local Plan with a capacity of nine houses.
Long Preston Parish Council had objected to the application for several reasons. These included the loss of green space and wildlife; inadequate provision of car parking spaces within the proposed development; access to the footpath which crosses the site; and concerns about the speed of traffic along Main Street.
It stated: ‘The parish council would welcome traffic calming measures to be installed on the main road to make it safer to enter and exit the proposed development. In addition the site line for the proposed entrance does not take into account the change in gradient immediately to the west, rendering the site dangerous to road users and residents.’
Cllr Allen Kirkbride (parish council appointee) asked about speed limits along Main Street. Mr Graham replied that this was a matter for the highways authority. Various issues will be considered when a full application is submitted.
Retrospective permission was granted for a line of mirrors along the south boundary of Holme Farm in Main Street.
These had been installed to assist with teaching and training at the horse riding school. The planning officer stated that the mirrors had very little visual impact from within the riding area as they simply reflected the arena and stables. The 20m long and 2.4m high metre fence on which they are mounted was visible, she said, from the public car park and the picnic area of the Visitor Centre. She did not believe this would harm the visual character of that part of Malham.
Kirkby Malhamdale Parish Council objected to the application because it was very concerned about the leylandi hedge which had been planted. It wants to see this completely removed and replaced with a hedge of local species trees and bushes. It had, however, been informed that the hedge was not a planning matter.
It didn’t take long for the committee to approve the application for the conversion of an existing garage and outbuilding at Ingledene, Burtersett, into a one-bedroom holiday let.
The planning officer explained it was originally intended to gain access to this via an existing doorway which opened on the narrow roadside verge. There was concern at the committee’s meeting on August 22nd about the impact of this upon road safety.
The applicant had, therefore, submitted amended plans showing access via a door which faced into the main house of Ingledene, with the doorway onto the road being blocked off.
‘Pedestrian access can easily be gained through the site, past the main houses to the proposed holiday cottage without the need for visitors to walk on the road,’ the planning officer said. He added that permission had been granted at the August meeting for a parking place to be allocated for that holiday let beside the proposed new garage.
Several members expressed their frustration that lintels had not been installed to the rears of over 20 houses being built at Station Road, Sedbergh.
Cllr Simpkins described it as a joke that this had gone ahead even though the committee had, at its meeting in August, refused permission for this alteration to the original plans.
The principal planning officer, Katherine Wood, explained that subsequently Mulberry Homes (a subsidiary of Broadacres Housing Association) had informed the Authority that construction had gone ahead without installing the lintels on the rears of the houses on plots 16 to 42 before the August meeting. Lintels were being installed to the front of the houses.
She reported that Mulberry Homes did not want to affect the building programme as the properties were already under construction. As it had gone ahead without planning permission the committee was asked for its view on enforcement action.
She recommended that it was inexpedient to pursue enforcement action as public views of the houses would not be affected especially as trees would be planted to increase the amount of screening. She said all the houses affected would have a rendered finish and added that there wasn’t a strong precedent in Sedbergh for exposed stone lintels on rendered properties.
‘It is, therefore, considered that the minor changes to the original design will not dilute the overall quality of the design of the housing development within the context of Sedbergh,’ she stated.
Sedbergh Parish Council had objected to the removal of the lintels as it felt this would down-grade the quality of the scheme. Cllr Robert Heseltine agreed stating that this would undermine the aesthetic value of the houses.
Cllr Foster said they needed to ensure a developer did not do something similar in the future. But he agreed with other members that they did not want to hold up construction.
‘I am very frustrated … but we really need these houses,’ said Cllr Ian Mitchell (Westmorland and Furness).
And so the majority voted to accept the recommendation not to go ahead with enforcement.