Earlier today we published an opinion piece from a champion of Dartmoor, who is worried about the UK Government's attitude to planning and rural development. It appears he's not the only one. The landscape of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the wellbeing of its local communities will be dealt a severe blow if proposed changes to planning laws are introduced, according to the National Park Authority.
Under its proposed relaxation of planning rules in England the Government wants to allow agricultural buildings like barns to be turned into homes without the need for planning permission. This would apply to any barn anywhere in a National Park.
That would cause “irreversible harm” to the distinctive scenery of the Dales, says Peter Charlesworth, Chairman of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA).
"These proposals will cause irreversible harm to the special qualities of this National Park; and will completely undermine attempts to provide affordable housing for the local people in it"
'This National Park contains more barns than any other – an estimated 6000' he said.
'The Government proposals to relax the restrictions will have potentially disastrous consequences here – probably more than in any other area of England.'
About 4000 of the barns in the National Park are located away from farmsteads, out in the open countryside. They are a unique part of the Dales landscape.
'Valleys full of fields dotted with these stone field barns could be transformed into a semi-urban environment with roads and overhead power and phone lines' said Peter Charlesworth.
'You would have gardens, cars, washing lines, greenhouses and everything else that goes with a home springing up in some of the most stunning – and nationally protected – countryside in England.'
'In addition, there would be major disruption of the landscape to install the basic infrastructure like sewer and water pipes – and the Authority would be powerless to control it or to prevent it from happening.'
'We understand the Government’s aims to regenerate our rural communities by making the best use of redundant and under-used agricultural buildings. But in the Dales, the proposals would have the opposite effect.'
According to the YDNPA, the Government’s proposal would undermine local efforts to provide more affordable housing for local people.
'They would open up a flood of unconstrained, open-market housing. All the evidence of the last 10 years suggests that this will just lead to more of the same: more second homes and more dream homes for retired people' said Charlesworth.
'Housing developed in this way would contribute little to meeting our local community needs. Nor would it provide the support we desperately need to hold on to our local services, such as primary schools. On the contrary, it will simply increase the pressure on services already struggling to cope with a disproportionately elderly population.'
'Barn conversions tend to be very expensive and are more likely to deliver ‘second homes in the fields’ than an affordable ‘Home on the Farm’.'
'The proposals are bad for the landscape and bad for local communities and, quite frankly, they make a mockery of the Government’s claim to be supporters of localism.'
'We believe these proposals will cause irreversible harm to the special qualities of this National Park; and will completely undermine attempts to provide affordable housing for the local people in it.'
The YDNPA has drawn up a written submission to the Government’s proposals that also says the removal of the need for planning permission would conflict with its own National Planning Policy Framework, as well as the Authority’s own adopted Housing Development Plan policies.
The Government’s response to the consultation is expected soon.