A SCHEME aiming to improve parking at one of the most popular visitor sites in the Yorkshire Dales has been approved, despite features of the scheme being likened to a city centre multi-storey car park.

Farmer Michael Daggett told the national park authority’s planning committee that its promotion of the unique landscapes had placed “a large burden” on the community of Burnsall and improvements to his popular car park aimed to ease the issues.

The meeting heard the car park beside Burnsall’s 17th century stone bridge was a valued community site hosting outdoor sports events, such as cricket, and on busy days saw several hundred cars parking there.

Changes to the car park’s entrance and access track, automatic car park barriers, automatic number plate recognition cameras, solar panels on the toilet roof and oak canopy above new ticket machines were necessary to upgrade the area, members were told.

The meeting heard the area had become gridlocked last year after Bolton Abbey introduced advanced parking charges and how Burnsall already suffered from traffic problems caused by indiscriminate, but legal, parking along the roadside.

The expected surge of people to the Dales following lockdowns and on staycations would place further demands for the car park, members heard.

Mr Daggett, whose family has farmed the site for 121 years, said the car park had been launched by his grandfather in 1952 and upgrades in amenities had always been as sensitive as possible.

However, planning officers told the meeting the changes represented “a highly urban style of car park management and more akin to a city centre multi-storey car park than rural Burnsall”.

An officer stated: “The high visual quality of the landscape around Burnsall and the fact that it is unspoilt by unsightly modern development is one of the special qualities of the national park and the reason why so many people visit the area.

“Although this proposal is small in scale it is development of this nature which has a negative impact that erodes the visual quality and farmed landscape character of the area.”

Several members then questioned the need for the barriers, saying they would “stand out like a sore thumb”. They said the scheme would have a harmful impact on the highly visible wide expanse of grass, which is grazed for part of the year.

Nevertheless, Craven District Council leader Richard Foster, who represents the area, described the proposed changes as “minimal”. He said they would make very little difference to the landscape when hundreds of cars parked there.

Ahead of the planning committee approving the plan by a narrow margin, Mr Foster said: “Is this how we want people to use the national park? I think it’s great. It’s a different group of people we normally attract to the national park. They come, enjoy themselves, get out in the countryside, they’re often from urban environments and they love it. A lot of them have been coming weekend in, weekend out for years and years.”