TENSIONS over the conversion of barns in a national park have escalated as a planning boss hit back at claims the body charged with conserving the park and communities was overseeing an abject failure over the objectives.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s member champion for development management Jim Munday dismissed accusations it had used “a highly undemocratic protocol” to block a barn conversion for a young family.

Mr Munday was responding to claims by Hawes and High Abbotside Parish Council that the authority had been inflexible in implementing its initiatives to retain young families, and that the parish council could consider a vote of no confidence in the authority as a result.

The parish council had also questioned why Labour councillor Margaret Pattison had voted at last month’s park authority planning committee, despite no longer being a Lancaster City councillor, which she had represented on the park authority.

Mr Munday told a meeting of the authority’s planning committee he hoped people attending the parish council meeting next week would hold the parish council’s chairman, Councillor John Blackie to account.

He said the authority had given approval for 122 barn conversions for residential use since planning policy was made more flexible in October 2015, with just ten applications being turned down.

He added: “The authority is approving barn conversions which conserve the intrinsic value of the building and support communities and the local economy.

“But we cannot have a policy that says ‘anybody who is young or has a family can build a house wherever they like’.”

Despite the defence of the authority’s actions, the meeting heard a statement from the Association of Rural Communities which further questioned whether it had been consistent in applying its planning policies and that the authority appeared to be “cherry picking” plans that it liked.

The association spokeswoman added: “For many years it was accepted by the planning committee that decisions should be deferred until newly elected district and county councillors could be there to represent their constituents. At the June meeting a request to defer a decision until the new Richmondshire District Council members were in attendance was refused. And yet Margaret Pattison was allowed to attend and vote even though she was no longer a Lancaster City councillor. How can this be seen to be acting with integrity and fairness?”