The future of a historic mill overlooking a honeypot tourist attraction is hanging in the balance after national park officers recommended a plan to rescue the crumbling structure be rejected.
The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s planning committee will hear while its first purpose is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area, the scheme to save Aysgarth Falls’ Victorian Yore Mill could lead to road safety hazards and congestion.
Developer Dave Peacock has warned urgent restoration works are needed as the roof of the Grade II listed former corn and woollen mill has collapsed inwards.
After decades as a carriage museum, Yore Mill has fallen into serious disrepair and is no longer safe to enter, despite the authority and its owner having been in discussion since 2010 about the need for repair works to secure the structure.
In a report to the planning committee officers stated: “Members will be aware that the condition of the mill is deteriorating quickly since a small collapse in the roof a few weeks ago.
“It is a real possibility that the roof could be lost soon and once it and the lateral timbers have gone, there would be structural issues with the walls with the risk that the building could be lost completely.
“The mill is a landmark building that forms a set piece with the surrounding buildings and to lose it would have a significantly detrimental affect on the remaining listed buildings, the setting of the falls and the wider cultural heritage of the national park.”
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It is understood that a sale of the mill has been agreed in recent months, subject to the authority granting planning permission for a scheme to convert the mill into two flats, six holiday let flats and one local occupancy flat, alongside a visitor centre, a commercial premises with the re-instatement of its hydroelectric turbine.
While the parish council has urged the authority to approve the scheme at the meeting next week, North Yorkshire County Council highways bosses have called for it to be refused due to the absence of adequate onsite parking space, which they said would be likely to result on cars being parked on the side of the road.
They said tourists visiting Aysgarth Falls “would be expected to walk in the carriageway to the detriment of road safety”.
The officers’ report concludes that with “regret”, they were recommending the scheme be rejected.
It states: “The authority is left in an extremely difficult position in that it has an application for the comprehensive restoration and re-use of a building that is currently under severe threat but is advised by the highway authority that the lack of parking is likely to affect road safety.
“The scheme is, on the whole, a sensitive one and will secure the long term survival of the building, conserving cultural heritage and enhancing the visitor experience in one of the national park’s foremost visitor locations.
"However, despite these benefits, if the authority is to approve the application, contrary to the advice of the highway authority, it is faced with replacing one problem with a very different, but also potentially very harmful one.”