CUSTODIANS of a national park have been warned against treating their new Local Plan “like a separate academic exercise” after supporting controversial developments which contravened policies they had spent years considering.

The North York Moors National Park Authority’s director of planning Chris France told the planning committee it was creating precedents against important elements of the Local Plan, which was adopted last July to guide developments in the protected landscapes.

The meeting heard how Liverpool had been stripped of its UN World Heritage status after a failure in its planning policies and that cumulatively breaches of planning would harm the park’s environment.

Mr France’s call for caution followed the committee allowing 38 shipping containers to remain on a remote farm near Ampleforth, about four years after the farmer ignored planners advice that the structures would be unacceptable and launching a storage business there.

Farmer Simon Dunn said since the Brexit vote, farms had been urged by the government to diversify and while some had focused on tourism and farm shops, he had “come up with a new business type on farm self storage”.

In response, an officer told the committee: “They are shipping containers, they are designed to be on the back of a lorry or a ship, not a national park.”

The authority’s deputy chairman Malcolm Bowes warned members approving the scheme would set a precedent for allowing shipping containers near farm buildings, while others described it as an “industrial development” rather than a farm diversification scheme.

Nevertheless, the majority of members said the storage containers were well screened, that there was a need for the business and approved the containers. Member Subash Sharma said: “We create housing which doesn’t have sufficient storage and that consequence has to be met somehow.”

Later, when the meeting heard an upland farm at a prominent site in Rosedale had repeatedly flouted planning rules by diversifying with tea rooms and glamping ventures, members suggested another exception should be made.

In response, Mr France said: “I just don’t understand why members have an issue with the policy on this, because it’s almost like the Local Plan is like a separate academic exercise that is done and dusted. With this and the previous decision today you are putting us in a really difficult situation. The Local Plan is one year old and you are legally required to make decisions in accordance with it.

“People get advice, they don’t like the advice, they ignore it and they just do it anyway. And then they finally get a decision that’s contrary to our policy. It’s your Local Plan, not mine.”

The meeting was told allowing the Rosedale development would enable people to site glamping pods wherever they liked as long as they were screened by vegetation.

Members then agreed to give the glamping and tea rooms ventures temporary permission for three years, only on the basis that it would enable the farm to get back on its feet following the pandemic and give them time for find more suitable sites for the enterprises.