The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) has published a report showing the national importance of the area and the reasons it is so special. But it also highlights the poor condition of many of the barns and walls in the two dales and asks for suggestions on how to save them.
Authority Building Conservation Officer Gaby Rose said local people would have a big part to play in the future of the area.
“The Swaledale & Arkengarthdale Barns and Walls Conservation Area was created 25 years ago and is the largest in the country,” she said.
“Its designation enabled the National Park Authority to obtain more than £1.5 million to help farmers and landowners repair farm buildings. Unfortunately, the money for barn conservation has now almost dried up and the area is identified by English Heritage as “at risk”.
“The area attracts visitors from all over the world who come to enjoy its special qualities, in particular the landscape that has been moulded over the last 500 years by farming practises.
“The remarkably high density of traditional stone-built farm buildings and walls is a major feature of the landscape but many are no longer in use, which is why we have produced this report. It describes the area, how its character has developed and what the threats are to its special quality. We hope it will help generate new ideas from residents – and even visitors – about how to manage this iconic landscape.”
The draft version of the Swaledale & Arkengarthdale Barns & Walls Conservation Area Appraisal document is available for public consultation until March 2 and can be viewed – along with information on how to respond – on the National Park Authority website at www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/conservationarea-appraisals .
Last year saw the launch of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Management Plan, which was produced by a partnership of 15 organisations including Richmondshire District Council, North Yorkshire County Council and English Heritage, as well as groups like the Dales Farmer Network and the Dales Rural Estates Network.
The plan sets out the partnership’s ambitions for how the National Park will be looked after over the five years to 2018. One of its objectives is to find ways to enhance the Swaledale & Arkengarthdale Barns and Walls Conservation Area so that, by 2016, it is no longer considered ‘at risk’.
Graham Dalton, the Authority’s Member Champion for Cultural Heritage, said: “Whenever I look at a barn I always wonder at its construction and how it was achieved without modern equipment and transport. The roofs and stonework are wonderful engineering features.
“The funds that were available have been well used to stabilise many of them. We know that farmers are keen to look after them but finding a continuing use for them is a problem. Planning policies readily permit conversion to alternative commercial use such as workshops, storage, office use and even builders’ yards, but very few applications are made.
“This conservation report emphasises the value of the barns for their place in the landscape and history of the dales. Let us hope that continuing occupation can be secured in some way for many of them – it will be the best outcome for long-term preservation.
“Proposals for the National Park Authority’s new Local Plan for the period 2015 to 2030 recognise that we need to have a more flexible approach to the re-use of redundant barns. This may include some new opportunities to find new uses for barns within the conservation areas including conversions to residential use.”
Contributing Source : Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority