New figures show that the vast majority of planning applications to convert barns into new homes and potentially lucrative holiday lets in the Yorkshire Dales have been approved.
Since relaxed rules around roadside barn conversions began to take effect in October 2015 and up to July this year, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) has received 79 applications for barn conversions.
All those proposals were for the creation of local occupancy homes or holiday lets. Only one application was refused, though one was approved on appeal.
The park authority only agrees to barn conversions if it is convinced they will not unduly impinge upon the distinctive character of the Dales’s landscape, irrespective of mounting pressure to address threats to the sustainability of the area’s remote communities.
As reported in The Yorkshire’s Post’s Dales in Crisis series earlier this year, a lack of affordable homes, a dearth of well-paid jobs, patchy broadband and mobile phone connections, and declining services, are causing young families to move away.
Some barn conversions are aimed at mitigating some of those factors, by creating dwellings that allow growing families to remain locally, or to provide vital extra income as holiday accommodation.
Despite a raft of such plans being passed in recent months, two new proposals are recommended for refusal when authority members meet next week.
One of those is from Chatsworth Settlement Trustees for the conversion of Dukes Barn at Bolton Abbey into a two-bedroom holiday let. It is recommended for refusal by planning officers who believe the proposed external layout and internal works associated with dry lining the building would cause “substantial harm to the structure’s heritage significance” and would detract from “the simple agricultural character and appearance” of an historic farm building.
A separate proposal from Mr and Mrs C and L Porter is for the demolition of an agricultural building and conversion of a barn to form a local occupancy dwelling or short-term holiday let, as well as to install a package treatment plant and erect a new agricultural building.
Neither parish council in either case objected to the plans and in the Grinton case, Grinton and Ellerton Abbey Parish Council supports the proposal, saying: “We are very much in favour of helping young people stay within the area and feel that the proposed changes would be an improvement to the site.”
However, national park officers also recommend that this application is rejected, partly because “no tangible conservation benefit would be achieved by the proposed new building works”.
National park authorities are legally obliged to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of national parks.
Peter Stockton, the YDNPA’s head of sustainable development, said that “no material weight” can be given to personal circumstances when judging planning applications, but he believes there is scope for more barn conversions that would help families stay in the national park.
He said: “There are about 850 barns located next to roads that could be suitable for conversions. We have to look at the details of each one and run them through our policies but a good many out there might be suitable.”