FARMERS IN the Yorkshire Dales National Park could benefit from recently announced changes to the area’s local plan, says Nigel Foster of regional land agent George F White.

Although most attention has focused on controversial restrictions that will allow only people living within the park to buy newly-built houses (see Farmlife), Mr Foster said the proposed reclassification of outlying settlements should make it easier for some farmers with redundant barns to convert them to residential use.

At present, even some fairly large clusters of houses are not always listed as specific settlements meaning they are not contained within a local envelope that has its own development limit, said Mr Foster. In these circumstances, gaining planning consent for residential conversion was almost impossible.

“Sedbusk, for example, which is near Hawes, must contain at least 30 houses, but it has never been officially recognised as a village. There must be 20 or so similar cases across the Dales,” said Mr Foster.

Under the existing regulations, consent might be given for commercial or office use, but there was limited demand for this in the park, he said. “Even the market for holiday lets is pretty saturated, I believe.

“When the proposed changes are introduced in 2006, there should be no reason why barns in reclassified areas would not receive planning consent to be turned into homes,” he said. This would boost the value of affected barns significantly, even if the pool of buyers was limited to local residents, he added. “We have been selling barns in the Dales with planning permission for £120,000 to £250,000.”

Mr Foster said agricultural occupancy conditions, which were more onerous than the new occupancy restrictions, knocked about 30% off open market values so he expected converted properties within the park to sell for only 20% less than they would do outside its boundaries.

andrew.shirley@rbi.co.uk