A BITTER dispute over a plan to transform the historic former headquarters of North Yorkshire Police into a children’s activity centre appears set to rumble on, despite residents being awarded £19,000 following a legal action.
While residents said they felt the quashing of Hambleton District Council’s decision to allow PGL to convert Newby Wiske Hall, near Northallerton, into a children’s holiday centre was a step forward, sources close to the authority said it would focus on changing its planning process.
It is understood the council will look to alter two of the five planning process High Court challenges by Newby Wiske Hall Action Group (NWAG) before presenting the application to its planning committee again.
Should the committee pass the scheme, residents will be able to challenge the decision on the three issues which the council did not concede.
The council said the decision to accept two of the challenges was disappointing, but had been made to avoid the further legal costs.
Residents said they felt the parish council’s decision to resign en masse over the council’s decision to pass the scheme had been vindicated by the High Court decision and that they remained committed to stopping PGL’s plan for the site.
This legal decision is a massive development, but not one where we can say we have won yet. The ball is very much in the court of the council and PGL about what happens next.David Stockport
Villagers in Maunby, South Otterington and Newby Wiske have already spent up to £10,000 fighting the application itself and will receive £19,000 back from the council to cover the cost of the legal action.
David Stockport, of NWAG, said noise from the site and increased traffic in the villages were key concerns and residents feared the outlook of the grade II listed property would be wrecked.
He said there were a number of other uses that residents would find acceptable and called on North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan to discuss options for the hall’s future use with residents.
He said: “This legal decision is a massive development, but not one where we can say we have won yet. The ball is very much in the court of the council and PGL about what happens next.
“We want to see that whatever process happens in the future is fair. We tried to make having a meeting with the chief executive of the council a condition of the settlement agreement, which Hambleton wouldn’t accept. We want him to spell out how Hambleton are going to run a fair process in the future.”
The High Court decision will also set back the force’s sale of the site – thought to have been valued at about £2.5m – as it is dependent on planning permission being granted. PGL did not respond to requests for a comment.
Residents battling a plan to launch a children’s holiday park in a quiet village have told how the closely-knit community has been ‘turned upside down’ since the scheme was announced.
David Stockport, who served in North Yorkshire Police for 32 years before working with adults with learning disabilities, said he and his wife, Maggie, had been set to retire to Wales to be closer to their family when PGL submitted its plans to transform the historic Newby Wiske Hall, near Northallerton, last June.
They said after learning of the plan for an activity centre – featuring giant rope swings, double zip wires, climbing walls and an extension to the lake for canoeing, kayaking and rafting – for about 500 guests at a time, the village had been avoided by house-hunters.
Mr Stockport said: “As soon as the announcement was made the viewings stopped dead. We spoke to our estate agent who said ‘you may as well take it off the market because nobody in their right mind is going to make an offer while this is outstanding’.
“We have absolutely been left in limbo. Our estate agent said if it goes ahead we are looking at between a ten and 15 per cent reduction in house value.”
He said since PGL’s scheme was announced no properties had been sold in the village.
Mr Stockport said to battle Hambleton District Council’s decision to approve the scheme they had put their “lives on hold and retirement plans at risk had we lost” the High Court action.
He said: “It’s a lot of money for people to find, but it’s our life, it’s the village’s future.There’s no doubt in my mind if PGL’s plans were to go ahead it would ruin this village and the surrounding villages.”