Planners set to throw out lodge plan for shooters Friend of Prince Charles in row over Moors hut

Brian Dooks A FRIEND of the Prince of Wales is in dispute with Yorkshire Dales National Park planners over the reconstruction of an ancient shooting lodge in a remote area of Upper Wensleydale.

Hugh van Cutsem, who owns grouse shooting moors at Mossdale, west of Hawes, wants to demolish and rebuild Hilary's Hut, which appears on the first edition of the six-inch Ordnance Survey map.

Mr van Cutsem, whose guests at Mossdale have included the Prince, has begun letting day shooting for grouse to increase income on his Mossdale Farms Estate and this has permitted the employment of a second gamekeeper.

At present shooting parties eat lunch in what Mr van Cutsem describes as "an unpleasant looking green tin hut". He wants to get rid of the tin hut by using traditional materials to rebuild Hilary's Hut, which stands on the skyline at a height of 1,414ft.

Hilary's Hut stands beside substantial stone walls and Mr van Cutsem has told National Park staff: "The size of this ancient shooting hut is, of course, minimal beside the walls and one could argue that the walls are far more intrusive, being extensive and highly noticeable."

The Norfolk farmer and bloodstock breeder, who is a Government appointed member of the council of English Nature, says the second gamekeeper has helped the management of the moor and resulted in improvements not only to the grouse but also the Mossdale sheep.

"These keepers can only be paid by having an appropriate level of shooting income which is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain due to competition from other moors with excellent facilities. Hilary's Hut will be a most important help in this respect in the future."

But planning officer Daniel Child is recommending the authority to refuse permission because development on open uplands identified in the Yorkshire Dales Local Plan can only be approved in the most exceptional circumstances.

He said: "The question for members under current policy is, therefore, whether or not in this instance the proposed hut for shooting purposes represents 'most exceptional circumstances'."

There is a further conflict because Mr van Cutsem has refused to move Hilary's Hut to avoid it appearing on the skyline. Mr Child said: "The chosen site does not minimise intrusion into the landscape and there are alternative solutions that would reduce the impact."

While officers were preparing their report they noticed an access track had been created as part of a scheme to build 36 shooting butts that was withdrawn after objections from the Ramblers' Association. The track's unauthorised construction is being investigated.