A TIDAL wave of opposition to national park planning policy was demonstrated when three-quarters of residents in two upper Wensleydale parishes signed a petition.

A total of 1,519 people from Hawes and High Abbotside and neighbouring Bainbridge and Askrigg parishes - with a total population of 2,000 - put their names to the document.

The campaign followed the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority twice approving the conversion of a barn to a family home, then overturning the decision on the advice of officers.

The building would have provided a low rental home for David Winspear and Sharon Spensley and their three young children. The couple now say they might have to move from the area because they can not afford property prices.

Coun John Blackie, chairman of Hawes and High Abbotside Parish Council, which organised the petition, said: "This represents a tidal wave of local support for the statements on the petition form and I urge members and officers to read each one carefully."

He said the handling of the planning application for the Cams House barn was a "damning indictment" of the authority, which stood "in danger of losing the complete confidence of local people and of being regarded as hostile by the very people it has a duty to look after."

The petition called for a reversal of the decision, a review of planning policy and for the Secretary of State to be asked to "call in" and decide the application. It was presented during an authority meeting at the Dales Countryside Museum, Hawes, on Monday.

The meeting, attended by about 25 members of the public, was told a decision notice had been issued last Friday, making it too late for the Secretary of State to intervene.

Coun Yvonne Peacock, who represents Bainbridge on Richmondshire District Council, said the national park authority was out of touch with the community.

"I could not believe officers had issued a decision notice of refusal last Friday," she said. "They could have waited another few days until the petition had been handed in."

There was also criticism of a policy which would have allowed the barn to become a holiday cottage but not a permanent home.

Coun Steve Macare, national park authority chairman, who received the petition, said the authority had to act within the law when determining planning applications.

"However much we empathise with the personal circumstances of an applicant, and in this case every member did, personal circumstances rarely override planning policies," he said.

The Cams House application contravened national and local planning policies and approval would have opened a floodgate of similar applications.

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