Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority investigating potential planning breach after 18th-century pub is turned into tearoom and house without consent

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has launched an investigation into potential planning breaches at an 18th-century pub.

The Moorcock Inn at Garsdale Head, between Sedbergh and Hawes, shut last year and its owner, Joanne Cox, converted the building into living accommodation and a small tearoom, claiming the pub was unviable as a business.

Although she has subsequently applied for retrospective consent to change the building’s use, local residents have raised serious objections after the tearoom began trading, with signage erected and a website launched, despite the application having not yet been decided.

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National Park planning officers are now investigating whether any breaches of policy have taken place.

Moorcock Inn owner Joanne Cox has applied to convert the pub into a tearoom and houseMoorcock Inn owner Joanne Cox has applied to convert the pub into a tearoom and house
Moorcock Inn owner Joanne Cox has applied to convert the pub into a tearoom and house

The title deeds to The Moorcock also reveal that it is subject to a covenant imposed in 1977, when it was sold by Christopher William Garnett to Alan Ambler, that requires the building to remain as an inn that could also include a shop selling such items as groceries, maps, gifts, ice cream and postcards, in perpetuity.

Mrs Cox and Andrew Bussey purchased The Moorcock in 2016, and Mr Bussey also runs wedding venue Eden Barn in Kirkby Stephen.

In documents submitted, Mrs Cox confirms that she wishes to downsize after her children left the family home nearby and intends to convert the pub’s bar into her personal living accommodation, the old manager’s flat into a licensed tearoom and retain the letting bedrooms to provide a bed and breakfast service. She describes the Moorcock as suffering from ‘falling trade’.

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There have been eight objections to the scheme, most from Garsdale residents, who point out that The Moorcock is well-used by the farming community and Pennine Way walkers, whose needs would not be served by a tearoom. It is the only public house in a remote area, with the nearest inns being six miles away in Sedbergh or 12 miles away in Hawes.

The pub has served Garsdale Head since the 18th centuryThe pub has served Garsdale Head since the 18th century
The pub has served Garsdale Head since the 18th century

Others point out that the building had 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 and its location is comparable to other remote inns that trade successfully, such as Tan Hill.

The building dates from the 1740s, when it was a coaching inn, and in the early 20th century inquests were still held there. It was extensively rebuilt after a chip pan fire in 1975 that killed the landlords, Ronald and Muriel Bicknell, who had just announced their retirement after their licence was revoked.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority said: “We have been investigating a potential breach of planning controls and hadn't initiated any enforcement action prior to the receipt of the planning application for change of use.

“We will now need to consider the planning application in the usual way.”

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