Residents of Yorkshire village say alpaca farmers' trekking centre plan is 'commercial venture'
The series of objections lodged with North Yorkshire Council over a retrospective change of use of land in Butterwick, north-west of Malton, follow mounting concerns for food security with agricultural land being lost to leisure industry developments, such as glamping sites or dog walking fields.
Application documents state Anna and Chris Ramsay bought six acres of grazing land near the Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, off Boyton Lane, “with the sole intention of establishing a viable agricultural alpaca business”.
Agents for the couple said they wanted consent to change of use of the land designated solely for agriculture to “alpaca trekking and visitor experience activities in conjunction with the agricultural enterprise”.
The papers state their herd of 21 breeding female alpaca with stud males and youngstock were to be used for breeding, rearing and for sale as well as for special needs educational purposes, with alpaca trekking.
The documents highlight how Mrs Ramsay previously managed a childcare business while Mr Ramsay’s background was in construction.
The papers state: “Alpacas are gentle animals that put people at ease, which is especially important for those with caring needs such as autism, mentalhealth issues, anxiety, visual impairment etc.
“Their friendly natures creates an atmosphere of calm and a non-judgemental environment at the farm provides a safe place which can be of a great benefit to those who are often overwhelmed by their emotional and/or physical difficulties.”
Nevertheless the papers state alpaca trekking is a small-scale element of the enterprise, “ancillary to the main agricultural use of the site”.
The application added: “Although the applicant’s website says that the alpaca trekking is open to bookings seven days a week, but this is because Mrs Ramsey works on the site constantly.”
However, in lengthy objections to the planning application, neighbouring residents said any claim the scheme represented “diversification” of the ruraleconomy were “wholly disingenuous”.
They added the site was “suitable for the breeding of alpacas”, but as the alpaca centre was surrounded by narrow lanes, it was unsuitable for the 140 extra vehicle trips they claimed the enterprise would generate a week.
One resident said: “This is not an application brought by applicants who have farmed and now need to diversify their business in order to survive…
“Quite the contrary, this is a new, virgin commercial enterprise in the heart of a rural landscape.”
In an unusual move, neighbours highlighted numerous posts from Butterwick Alpaca Retreat’s Facebook page from recent weeks stating the couple aimed to create a “sensory farm” as well as images of numerous trekking groups there despite it lacking planning consent.
A resident wrote: “It is clear, contrary to what is being suggested by the applicant, that the trekking, sensory farm, children’s parties, glamping, therapy and related non-breeding activities are far from incidental or de minimis to the permitted agricultural use of the land.
“In short, this is an application for a change of use to a commercial undertaking and on that basis it is without any merit whatsoever.”