Farming couple ask for sympathy after North York Moors National Park Authority object to their off-grid shepherd's hut plans

The North York Moors National Park Authority has been urged to enable more farmers to diversify by offering off-grid holiday sites in remote locations.

North York Moors countryside
North York Moors countryside

A meeting heard several members express sympathy for a family’s plan to launch a glamping site in a field on the edge of Cropton Forest, 280 metres from their home despite being repeatedly told the move would harm the area’s character and undermine efforts to protect the park’s landscapes.

The authority’s director of planning, Chris France, told the meeting while the proposal was for only three shepherd’s huts, if the proposal was approved the national park’s policy would allow up to 12 to be installed at the field.

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He said: “Although this is quite a small-scale development the authority is under quite significant pressure for this kind of development due to the trend for staycations and what has happened over the last two years.

“The policy is really clear on this; in this National Park we don’t wish to allow sporadic development on isolated greenfield sites that are not associated with or close to where existing development is. If you were to say recreational development such as this can take place on greenfield isolated sites that’s a really important precedent you would be setting.”

However, the meeting heard proposed site would ensure an off-grid experience for visitors that could not be achieved near a farmhouse.

Cropton resident Harriet Stripling Scott told the committee she and her husband had moved to the area to be near family and friends, but that they “simply couldn’t afford to live” there purely on an agricultural business.

She said: “We see this diversification scheme as our solution to continue to live and contnue to contribute towards a sustainable future for our family in the National Park.”

The authority’s chairman, Jim Bailey, said while he sympathised with the applicants’ personal circumstances, that could not be taken into account when deciding upon the proposal.

He said: “This is a really important principle and something I feel would be quite difficult to deviate on. Once we have the principle of development in that field it would be difficult to manage the impacts. That’s exactly what we’re about - trying to stop isolated development that damages the character of the landscape. ”

Nevertheless, several members said the proposal would have a minimal impact on the landscape and that there was a clear demand for the type of off-grid holiday that the family were proposing.

Ryedale council member Janet Frank said: “This to me would be my ideal holiday to go up there. No phone, no television, no electric and no outside interference. There are an awful lot of people in this day and age who need that sort of accommodation and need to completely get away from it all. I don’t think there’s enough of that for people that have problems with modern day living, which is very stressful.”

Member Subash Sharma called for a review of development policies to enable holiday-makers looking for a different type of experience.

He said: “Perhaps we need to create a new policy for people who want to be isolated and want to be in this kind of situation, not immediately surrounded by other people. I do feel we need to look at this kind of development in a different way.”

The meeting was then told there were barns and old farmsteads in the National Park which could be converted into accommodaton for “people who want to get away from it all”.

Before members postponed a decision on the proposal to inspect the site, member David Jeffels questioned the harm it would cause to the landscape.

He said isolated shepherd’s huts were a traditional feature of fields in the national park and due to the demand for glamping accommodation the authority should expect numerous similar proposals.

Mr Jeffels added: “We have increasing pressure to support diversification in the post-Covid era. I think the impact will be beneficial for the local economy.”