Villagers furious as PGL activity centre in Yorkshire applies to host day guests as well as residential visits

Villagers have voiced fury after the firm which transformed North Yorkshire Police’s former headquarters into a children’s residential holiday centre unveiled plans to open the site to “day guests” and significantly extend the hours outdoor sports are played.

Residents whose homes overlook and are close to Newby Wiske Hall, near Northallerton, said if North Yorkshire Council granted PGL’s ambitions to relax restrictions aimed at minimising noise pollution from the site the impact, particularly through the summer months, would become more intolerable.

The firm opened the site last year, six years after the county’s first police and crime commissioner Julia Mulligan announced she had chosen PGL as the purchaser of the grade II listed hall and grounds as it would be “a very good neighbour”.

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However, objectors claimed hundreds of excited children on activity equipment yards from their homes and coaches coming and going through the tranquil village would shatter their quality of life.

Newby Wiske Hall, which served as North Yorkshire Police's headquarters before being sold to PGLNewby Wiske Hall, which served as North Yorkshire Police's headquarters before being sold to PGL
Newby Wiske Hall, which served as North Yorkshire Police's headquarters before being sold to PGL

A subsequent campaign saw residents fund legal actions in which the High Court quashed Hambleton District Council’s decision to grant planning consent, before the local authority approved it again on the grounds that a noise management plan and enforcement action by the council would prevent residents having to endure unacceptable noise.

In a planning application to alter the noise management plan, agents for PGL said since launching the site last year the firm had carried out of a review to ensure the plan’s contents accurately reflected the activities undertaken across the site.

Although the original proposal stated PGL did “not intend to offer use of the site to non-residential guests”, the firm has applied for the condition to be changed to “the site would be used for non-residential guests for pre-booked day trips”.

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The document states while it had previously been approved that up to 300 children could take part in outdoor activities at any time, its instructors should in future be allowed to use whistles in the grounds, for “safety reasons” until 9pm seven days a week.

While it was originally stipulated all evening activities must take place in the site’s northwest area, agents for the firm said it now wanted to change the restriction to trying “to undertake evening activities as far as is practicable, away from the nearest noise residential sensitive receptors to the east of the site”.

The agents said as part of the changes, in order to ensure noise levels remain as low as practicable at the closest residential receptors to the east, the Quiet Zone would be extended by nearly 46 per cent to the west, providing a greater offset distance to residential receptors.

However, it added while use of the outdoors sports area had been restricted to 14 hours a week, through the summer months it now wanted to use the field from 9am and that games would end by 9pm.

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Council planning officers have previously stated the noise management plan was “very important” to the approval of the venture and that it needed to illustrate the impact on residents could be limited.

Residents have claimed by trying to introduce non-residential use at the site in a modified noise management plan the firm was “effectively attempting to gain consent through the back door”.

Comparing the proposal to invite ‘day guests’ to a theme park near Ripon, one resident, whose name is withheld, said: “Lightwater Valley here we come. They are saying they want to be good neighbours, but they are not doing anything to achieve that.

“Last summer it was like a bear garden one day. There were so many kids running absolute riot out there, unsupervised. We did complain about it, but it didn’t do any good. If the proposed changes are passed it’s only going to be tea time when there’s nobody out there for an hour and a half.

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“The instructors are supposed to control the kids, but they control them by shouting ‘One, two three scream, let’s have some noise’. It’s control of a sort, but not the sort the neighbours want.”

Newby Wiske residents said following the centre’s launch they had been forced to keep their windows shut through the summer to reduce the noise impact and some properties had become difficult to sell due to the PGL site.