A series of rejected plans to convert barns into homes in a deeply rural Yorkshire Dales community is proof that efforts to retain young families in the National Park are a “dismal failure”, according to a long-serving member of the park’s authority.
Four proposed barn conversion projects in the Upper Dales, involving families with young children, have be turned down since December.
The decisions come at a time when one of the area’s schools, Arkengarthdale Primary, is due to close after serving the community 360 years, with just two pupils expected to be left on the school roll come September.
The latest barn plan to be rejected was from parents-of-two Ashley and Katie Iveson who wanted to convert a redundant barn on their father’s smallholding in Hawes. It was refused on the recommendation of planning officers who suggested it would constitute a development in “open countryside”.
Other plans turned down in recent months include barn conversions in Appersett, Breconbar and Grinton.
The decisions have sparked concern for the future of communities in Hawes and High Abbotside, so much as that the local parish council will meet this month to discuss issuing a “statement of serious community concern” to the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, which rules on planning applications.
Councillor John Blackie, who chairs Hawes and High Abbotside Parish Council, serves as a county and district councillor and has been a member of the National Park authority for 22 years, said public anger was running high.
“In my 22 years as the County Councillor for the Upper Dales, I do not think I have come across such open resentment within our local communities to a series of planning decisions so fundamentally hostile to our bright future, and our very best social and economic interest. The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority is merely talking the talk rather than walking the walk in its insipid efforts to retain our young families - its commitment is all in the shop window and nothing in the stock room.”
As reported as part of The Yorkshire Post’s Dales in Crisis series earlier this year, a perfect storm of social and economic pressures is forcing the next generation to leave the National Park.
Severe shortages of well-paid jobs and affordable homes, among other problems, is forcing families out of small Dales communities.
In order to counter what the chief executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, David Butterworth, has described as “very dominant” market forces, the park authority is working with the area’s district councils to deliver an action plan.
Relaxed rules allowing roadside barns to be converted for holiday lets and local occupancy housing came into effect in October 2015 and since then about 110 barn conversions have been approved in the National Park. Up until March this year, only 10 had been refused.
However, Mr Butterworth said only a few conversions that have been approved have gone ahead, with people said to be cashing in on barns that have planning permission in place.
In Hawes and Upper Abbotside, the recent planning refusals could lead to the parish council tabling a vote of no confidence and trust in the park authority.
Coun Blackie said: “The debate at the July meeting of the Parish Council will be hard-hitting, as we feel completely let down by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.”