Moorcock Inn, Garsdale: Planners want landlady who turned 18th-century Yorkshire Dales inn into a tearoom without permission to convert it back into a pub

The owner of an 18th-century coaching inn in the Yorkshire Dales is likely to be told to turn the building back into a pub – after she converted it into a tearoom and house without permission.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority launched an enforcement investigation when The Moorcock Inn at Garsdale Head’s owner Joanne Cox began advertising a small tearoom and holiday let after building work had been completed.

She only applied for planning consent retrospectively, saying she wished to live permanently at The Moorcock but that the pub was no longer viable as a business.

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There were numerous objections from local residents to the loss of the public bar, while the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) local branch have also opposed the closure, claiming a viability study was never completed and that its members had often found the pub to be shut when it was meant to be trading.

The Moorcock Inn at Garsdale HeadThe Moorcock Inn at Garsdale Head
The Moorcock Inn at Garsdale Head

The National Park’s planning officers have now recommended enforcement action to be taken against Mrs Cox, which includes the cessation of the use of the former manager’s flat as a tearoom and holiday let; the cessation of the use of the main building as a residential dwelling; the removal of the fixtures and fittings associated with these uses, including partition walls and a new staircase; the restoration of the bar and public areas to their original use; the removal of signage advertising the tearoom from the grounds.

A six-month compliance period will be specified and if the work is not undertaken, Mrs Cox will be liable for prosecution.

Mrs Cox has owned The Moorcock, which is between Sedbergh and Hawes, since 2016, and told planners she wished to ‘downsize’ by moving into the pub. She said it had suffered ‘falling trade’.

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However, objectors claimed it was always popular with walkers on the Pennine Way as well as the local farming community.

Moorcock Inn landlady Joanne CoxMoorcock Inn landlady Joanne Cox
Moorcock Inn landlady Joanne Cox

Others point out that the building has 260 years of history as licensed premises which ‘should not be allowed to be lost’, and that in recent years it had been considered by locals to be busy. It is close to Garsdale Station on the Settle to Carlisle line.

The local parish council, Hawes and High Abbotside, actually supported the plans, as they said it was ‘unrealistic’ to expect it to remain a pub when there had been difficulties in recruiting staff and that the conversion was preferable to the building falling into disrepair.

However, the officers’ report stated: “Work to change the inn to a house has been carried out without any attempt to sell the business or premises on the open market. So, whilst the current difficult economic climate is recognised, there is no submitted evidence to suggest that the current use is no longer needed, or that an alternative use could not be found for the inn building. There is also no other equivalent business in the vicinity that serves the same purpose.

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"Whilst the proposal incorporates a small tearoom within the manager’s accommodation, this is not of at least equivalent standard given its small size, poor access, and lack of presence at the rear of the site.

"It is the only public house serving Garsdale. This is a community that is spread out along the dale with few community facilities, and the next closest

public houses are located some distance away in Hawes, Sedbergh and Dentdale.

"A tearoom and letting rooms may have the potential to be a suitable alternative mixed use for the public house that has the potential to comply with policy. However, this should be within the existing commercial floorspace of the premises, rather than within the ancillary extension at the rear of the building. This is in order to avoid the permanent loss of the commercial and cultural importance of the main building, and because the proposed commercial element is considered to be far less than equivalent value than the main building.

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"For these reasons, the proposal is considered to be harmful and contrary to policy. The inn is considered to be a valuable community facility with potential for a sustainable business to continue in the future. There have been no independent assessments carried out to demonstrate that there is no option other than to permanently close it and change its use to a dwelling. Furthermore, the proposed tearoom and letting room use is not considered to be of equivalent benefit to the community or the local economy. As such the proposal is considered to be harmful to the social vitality of the community and the rural economy.

"The manager’s accommodation is required in order to support the viability of the employment use of the premises by allowing more rooms within the main building to be used as letting rooms directly linked to the public house business. The use of the space as a tearoom and short-stay holiday let results in the loss of accommodation for a manager and without evidence to the contrary, is considered to be harmful to the viability of the main business and the local economy.

"The self-contained holiday let amounts to a new dwelling in a remote rural location and it has not been demonstrated that it is required for a rural worker. Furthermore, it does not amount to the subdivision of an existing residential building. It therefore amounts to unsustainable development.

"The fenced enclosures introduce poorly designed, domestic visual clutter, and the removal of the signage detracts from the character and cultural

significance of the building as a public house.”

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As well as suggesting the enforcement action, planning officers also recommended the retrospective application for a change of use be refused.

The Moorcock Inn was built in the 1740s for the coaching trade, though had to be extensively rebuilt after a fire in 1975 which killed the licensees at the time, Ronald and Muriel Bucknell.

A final decision will be made by councillors at the committee meeting on April 23.

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