Residents object to 'children squealing' if major new PGL activity centre is built at Newby Wiske Hall near Northallerton

The firm behind a controversial plan to convert North Yorkshire Police’s former headquarters in a tranquil hamlet into a holiday centre for up to 550 children at a time has revealed it aims to launch the venture in a year’s time.

Newby Wiske Hall
Newby Wiske Hall

Travel company PGL, which announced some 670 redundancies last October due to the pandemic, said its plan to transform Grade II-listed Newby Wiske Hall, near Northallerton into a residential training centre was on track to be completed by next autumn.

The announcement comes more than two years after the firm was granted planning permission for the development following a high-profile campaign by residents of nearby villages who claimed hundreds of excited children on activity equipment close to their homes and coaches coming and going would shatter their quality of life.

The campaign saw residents vent fury over former police commissioner Julia Mulligan’s decision to sell the hall to PGL and in 2018 launch legal actions in which the High Court quashed Hambleton Council’s decision to grant planning consent.

The firm’s statement also follows it lodging a planning application with the authority for an array of outdoor activity equipment in the hall’s historic parklands, which will include four-line 100-metre long zip wire, a multi-use games and outdoor sports areas, giant swings, a four-sided abseil tower and a 13-metre high climbing wall.

The firm is also planning to extend the lake, create assault courses featuring a 17-metre high wall, a ladder ramp, net and tyre crawls, see-saws as well as a rope swing, and high linear and low level ropes courses, activity bases, problem-solving equipment, a sensory trail, survivor equipment, and four-man aeroball and archery areas.

A spokeswoman for the firm, which completed its £2.5million purchase of the site from the force in August, said blueprints to develop the 550 bed spaces for children and more for staff were yet to be completed.

She said: “We are really looking forward to having a centre in Yorkshire to add to our portfolio. It is about trying to maintain what the previous owner had done with the site. We are not looking at changing that much and are looking to maintain the character.”

A spokesman for Newby Wiske Action Group said while the submitted plans showed significant changes to structures, neither the parish council or neighbours had not been notified of the plans despite some of the outdoor activity equipment being just yards from their homes.

He said while PGL’s latest planning application declared the site was hidden from public view, it could clearly be seen from the Newby Wiske to Maunby road. The action group said where a document asked for the name of a council officer who had provided advice to PGL the form simply read “Mr”.

The spokesman said villagers wanted North Yorkshire County Council, the district council and PGL to be “truthful and transparent”.

He said: “Hambleton seem to think they can put a condition on noise. They seem to think children squealing is going to stop at a quiet zone which backs onto residents’ homes. The whole village is to the west of this and with the majority of the winds coming from the west.

“It is going to be interesting to see how they keep children out of the quiet zone. They can’t put a fence up because it would hinder the view of a listed building.

“As far as we are concerned we have done as much as we can legally, so all we can do now is make sure they abide by the conditions and Hambleton ensures the company sticks to those conditions.”