Planning officers rule Ampleforth Abbey opened glamping site and holiday camp at Gilling Castle without permission for change of land use

Ampleforth Abbey has been told it should not have begun taking bookings for glamping and holiday camps on the site of a former prep school without obtaining planning permission first.

Gilling Castle was a prep school until 2018
Gilling Castle was a prep school until 2018

Ryedale Council opened an investigation into owners of the abbey after they partnered with travel company Activate to market 12th-century Gilling Castle and its grounds as a staycation resort.

The castle was the site of Ampleforth College's prep school, St Martin's, until it closed in 2018, and has extensive grounds including a lake, woodlands, and the school's old sports facilities.

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A website was set up promoting accommodation and activities at Gilling, including children's holiday camps and family glamping, and bookings were taken from May onwards in line with the lifting of travel restrictions.

However, local residents feared noise disturbance from the site and suspected it had opened without planning permission first being sought. A complaint was subsequently lodged with Ryedale Council and planning officers have now ruled that the campsite requires consent for a change of land use if it is to continue trading. The booking website has since been taken offline.

Ryedale Council's programme director for economic development, business and partnerships, Phillip Spurr, said: “We have now had the chance to investigate and assess the planning proposal at Gilling Castle in response to complaints raised with us. This is regarding the proposed use of the land and buildings at Ampleforth Abbey and a possible temporary change of use for buildings and surrounding land.

“The proposals would see camping, glamping and self-catering accommodation in the grounds and also a temporary change partly in some of the self-catering accommodation buildings.

“We have visited the site and carried out a detailed holistic assessment of the proposals which concluded that they would require planning permission.”

Ampleforth Abbey confirmed that the campsite would not open this summer, but indicated that permission would be sought to begin operating in 2022.

A spokesperson said: “The council has communicated that planning permission is required for some of the activities scheduled to take place at Gilling Castle this summer. The decision of the council has been fully accepted and those activities affected have been cancelled. Ampleforth Abbey Trust will work closely with Ryedale Council and the local community to ensure that summer 2022 activities at Gilling Castle have the support of the community and the relevant permissions in place from the council”.

Ampleforth Abbey has owned Gilling Castle since 1929. It was previously a country seat of the Viscounts Fairfax.

Since a child abuse scandal which resulted in the convictions of several former monks who taught at both the senior and junior schools, Ampleforth College and Ampleforth Abbey have separated themselves as legal entities. Gilling Castle has remained in Abbey rather than College ownership.