Elderly farming couple told they cannot build new bungalow in the Yorkshire Dales as age does not provide 'special circumstances'

An elderly couple hoping to build a more accessible home on their remote farm in the Yorkshire Dales have been told decreasing mobility with age or age-related health problems are not sufficiently exceptional or special reasons to develop outside housing boundaries in the national park.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s planning committee will on Tuesday (November 30) revisit Robert and Wendy Riley’s proposal to create purpose-built adapted single storey accommodation on the farm near Flasby, Skipton, to ensure Mr Riley can continue to provide care while still running his farming business.

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Over the past 15 years only a handful of new houses have been granted permission contrary to the authority’s planning policy that are justified by personal circumstances.

Farmland near Flasby

Planning documents submitted to the authority state how Mr Riley and his wife are both 76 years old and have suffered various health complaints.

The papers state how with reduced mobility for Mrs Riley the two-storey farmhouse has become impractical, but her husband’s “commitment to running the farm and tending his sheep flock requires a constant on-site presence in order to adequately discharge his duties and care for the welfare of his livestock”.

The documents state: “Wendy’s deteriorating health means that the practicalities of living in the farmhouse are becoming unacceptable. The proposal is to construct a modest single storey dwelling on the farm that is capable of securing Robert’s continued on-site presence together with providing acceptable living conditions for Wendy.”

While no neighbours have objected to the plan, officers charged with overseeing proposed developments in the highly protected area said the couple’s personal needs were “not of such an exceptional level that could justify setting aside adopted, well established and consistently applied development plan policies”.

They said in each of the cases in the national park where the need for a new home has been compelling, both exceptional and special, including instances where bespoke accommodation has been necessary to provide quality of life for severely disabled individuals.

Despite the advice, last months committee’s meeting last month members say they were minded to approve the application, despite officers recommending it be rejected.

Members said they were taking account of the personal circumstances of the applicant, the difficulty and cost of adapting the current farmhouse and protecting the sustainability of the 70-acre grassland farm and the wider community.

An officer’s report to the meeting examining the members’ decision to approve the proposal states none of their three reasons for doing so offer a offer a sound basis for making a decision contrary to the authority’s policy.

It adds: “Clearly there is sympathy for Mr and Mrs Riley’s circumstances in this regard, however decreasing mobility with age or age-related health problems is a very common condition and, it is considered, neither exceptional nor special. Many people live with such problems through adaptations to their existing living accommodation or through creating annexe accommodation rather than building a new house.

"Declining mobility and other age-related problems could be cited often and by many people in support of a proposal for a new house in areas where planning policy aims to restrict development.”