A HORSE rehoming and rehabilitation sanctuary is facing enforcement action after being found to be creating “an eyesore” in a national park.

The North York Moors National Park Authority’s planning committee unanimously rejected plans for the All For Horses centre at Silpho, Harwood Dale, four years after the charity set up there.

The decision came some six months after the sanctuary had been warned it needed to transform its operation and manage the land better, as it had become a blot on the landscape.

Up to 30 horses are cared for at the site, which has not been given planning permission to to change the use of agricultural buildings, retain a touring caravan and portacabin for workers and build a summerhouse and toilet block.

Following a site visit, committee members said the mess on the site, muddy lanes and brown fields was “unacceptable”.

They said poaching by livestock had led to the removal of grass and vegetation cover, making the land more susceptible to run-off and erosion.

Neighbouring resident Jacqui Shipman told members: “This application has had a devastating impact on the landscape.”

Members heard the sanctuary had been asked to detail how they would make environmental improvements to the site and prove that the operation could be financed, but the information had been of a “poor quality” and had not given any assurance that the issues would be overcome.

In response to a range of concerns, Cathy Edwards, of the sanctuary stated the farm had performed a social and educational role and had “happily accommodated and helped over a hundred people from all walks of life over the years”.

She said concerns about the horses’ welfare due to the muddy field were unfounded as the horses had many acres of non-muddy areas to go. She said: “This is not the same as keeping livestock in a confined area - these horses have more than adequate space plus the freedom to go where they like and choose the best place to be. There are no welfare issues keeping horses this way - in fact properties which keep horses singly or in twos in small square paddocks have higher incidences of stress- related illness and many other issues, none of which exist in our horses, which considering the appalling abuse some of them have suffered prior to coming here, should indicate that their living conditions are good. Horses settle well here and thrive - yes they do spend a lot of time playing and running and this does churn some parts of the fields up in wet weather, but this is not permanent and will now be reduced by the field management plan.”

Member David Jeffels suggested the sanctuary be given more time to make improvements. He said: “The aspirations of this organisation are very commendable, there’s no doubt about it, but it’s not an asset to the national park visually as it stands at the present time.”

However, officers said despite the sanctuary having had six months to tidy the site up there had been little improvement, so they had taken the unusual step of switching their recommendation for the scheme from approval to rejection.

Numerous members of the committee agreed that time had run out for the sanctuary to make the changes. Member Janet Frank said: “I was quite shocked about how untidy the site is. There was rubbish and junk and scrap all over the place. The ponies looked fine in the fields when we were there in summer. But in winter that many ponies are going to chew up the fields and turn them into a ploughed field again as they did last winter and that’s really damaging to the landscape.”

Authority chairman Jim Bailey said enforcement action would have to follow the refusal and asked members to consider the impact of Covid-19 on the venture.

He said: “If this was a viable proposition six months ago it probably isn’t now.”

Director of planning Chris France said as members had concluded the use of the site was unsuitable, the authority would “naturally” move to launch enforcement action on the site.