Campsite plan approved for Grade I-listed ancient monument Byland Abbey in North York Moors, despite parking concerns

English Heritage should be urged to consider the long-term management of one of its leading attractions in the North as its popularity is impacting on residents, road safety and a business, a meeting has been told.

Byland Abbey
Byland Abbey

The North York Moors National Park Authority’s planning committee was told while heritage issues over creating a campsite beside Cistercian monastery Byland Abbey had been ironed out, highways bosses had become increasingly concerned about the amount of visitors parking in the area.

Members of the park authority agreed to grant the tenants of the grade I listed Abbey Inn overlooking the 12th century monument, which is credited with inspiring church architecture across the North, permission to create a campsite in its garden for three years, in order to assess disturbance levels it creates.

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Local residents, including former regional chairman of the National Trust Sir Nigel Forbes Adam, had written to “object in the strongest terms” to the campsite being launched on the former monastic Outer Court of Grade I-listed abbey, near Ampleforth.

In response, Jake Hunt, who started renting the inn from English Heritage last autumn, told the committee: “This is not a raucous or reckless proposal, it’s carefully considered, will not damage the land or the area and will make my small business that little bit more viable.”

However, the residents had also raised concerns that any additional cars parked at the inn due to the campsite would further aggravate the roadside parking issue in the area.

The meeting was told that as English Heritage’s car park for Byland Abbey was small, the Abbey Inn’s car park was used by visitors to the monastery, and shortage of car parking in the area led to cars being parked “willy-nilly” surrounding the historical site.

Members heard the parking concerns were effectively the result of English Heritage renting out the pub, which it had traditionally used for overspill parking at its attraction. Members said the Abbey Inn’s tenants “were going to have to suffer the consequences”.

Member Subash Sharma said: “I think if there’s a problem with the abbey and the visitors they get it’s up to them [English Heritage] to provide parking.”

Another member, Alison Fisher, who worked as a historic areas advisor with English Heritage for more than 20 years, said the park authority needed to hold talks with the conservation charity over the long-term management of the attraction “so that it doesn’t upset those living nearby”.

She said: “Byland Abbey is one of English Heritage’s premier possessions in this area. It’s quite well visited even if it’s not manned.

“This was always a property that we never quite knew what to do with because it was never popular enough to man it and suffer the costs but it was popular enough to leave it open an let people enjoy it.

“The last 18 months has meant we are all here and staycationing. Maybe that will continue and I think therefore the long-term management is quite an issue for us.”