Elderly Dales couple who were refused permission to build a bungalow on their farm deny it is a 'devious money making scheme'

An elderly couple have spoken of their dismay after their ambition to build a specially-adapted home on their Yorkshire Dales farm was rejected, leaving them facing having to board up their rambling farmhouse to remain living there.

Robert and Wendy Riley, who are both 76, claimed the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s decision over the proposal at Flasby, near Skipton had seen its planning committee misled about their predicament and miss an opportunity to free up a four-bedroom home for a local farming family.

They were speaking after the authority’s planning committee meeting at the Devonshire Institute, Grassington, refused the couple’s proposal which aimed to enable Mr Riley to provide care for his wife, whose health was deteriorating, while also running the 28-hectare sheep farm.

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Planning officers had highlighted to the committee how over the past 15 years only a handful of new houses, justified by personal circumstances, had been granted permission contrary to the authority’s planning policy.

Members expressed sympathy for the couple’s plight, before stating the proposed building would be “wholly unrelated” to others in the area, particularly due to amount of glazing planned.

Development management member champion Jim Munday said there was ample scope for the couple to adapt the existing farmhouse, adding “common sense says that would be quicker, easier and cheaper” than the creating a new building.

Member and Wensleydale farmer John Amsden said the park authority needed to take into account the impact of its decisions on people’s mental health as well as their physical health. He said to remain at the farm the couple would be left with the cost of maintaining a four-bedroom farmhouse.

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After the committee voted seven to five against the proposal farmer Allen Kirkbride claimed planning officers had presented a one-sided case and had given the Rileys no right of reply at the meeting.

Outside the meeting Mrs Riley said the national park authority was putting landscapes ahead of the communities that maintained them.

She said: “We had no right of reply. The planning officer said the house was being built for the open market and it’s not. While the planning officer considered the proposal to be age-related, it’s actually a medical condition which is deteriorating, and that wasn’t referred to at all.”

Her husband added: “We live where we do now because 27 years ago the national park refused us what we wanted to do when we farmed on the Bolton Abbey Estate. What we do now remains to be seen.

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“We are local people with no devious money-making scheme behind this. It was to be an annex of the farmhouse and could have an agricultural tie on it.

“They’re saying the house could be adapted, so we’re now looking at possibly having to board up the windows, board it up to secure it to the outside and board up the staircase to make our accommodation all on the ground floor.

“The four bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs would just be a void. It’s crazy when there’s such a shortage of houses and we already know a farm worker who would use it for his family.”