A NATIONAL park authority has voted to block Government planning rules allowing disused barns to be converted into small business units.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority is thought to be the only national park in the country to fight the ruling, which allows agricultural buildings to be converted for commercial use without the need for planning permission.

However, planning permission is still required for all physical changes to buildings, parking provision and access.

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The authority plans to make an Article Four direction to remove the Government's new ruling within its boundaries. It is currently holding a public consultation.

Leader of Richmondshire District Council, John Blackie, who is also a member of the National Park Authority, is strongly opposed to the direction and said the park will limit economic growth in the Dales by imposing the ban.

Last night (Monday, February 10) he secured the support of the district council’s strategy board after raising it as an urgent item at a meeting to oppose the national park’s decision.

He said: “No national park or area of outstanding natural beauty is exempt from the planning rules to encourage economic growth.

“There is nowhere that has more barns than the Yorkshire Dales and most are standing redundant because farmers use sheep sheds instead – if there is no future use for them they will tumble to the ground.

“The relaxed planning rules would boost trade, provide jobs, and keep local people living and working the in Dales – which is vitally important if small communities are going to survive.”

But the National Park Authority said the relaxed policy could cause significant harm to architectural heritage, scenery, local commercial centres and the environment.

Richard Graham, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s head of development management, said: “The Article Four direction was agreed by members for the right reason – to protect our traditional barn landscape from inappropriate development.

“Our Local Plan policies support the re-use of redundant farm buildings for business use in the right locations.

“However, the permitted development rights give a blanket planning permission without taking into account the uniqueness of each individual application.”

The district council’s strategy board voted unanimously to recommend to full council that it should submit a strong objection to the national park’s proposal to impose the Article Four – and should it be adopted, that the council write to Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Owen Paterson, to object.