Housing Enquiry 1954

Housing enquiry by Ministry of Housing held in the Village Hall

January 27th 1954


Appeal against ruling of North Riding Planning Committee

A four year old fight on the part of Kirkbymoorside Rural Council to secure a building site at Hutton le Hole reached a new climax on Wednesday, when a Ministry of Housing and Local Government Inspector heard the Council Appeal against the National Parks Planning Committee of the North Riding County Council, who recently vetoed development on the site chosen by the Rural Council.

The enquiry was heard by Mr E Thompson who afterwards inspected the site in question, as well as alternative sites suggested by the County Council, and examples of stone council houses built in neighbouring villages. His findings will be submitted to the Minister, whose final decision on the appeal will be made known in due course.

This is a first appeal against a ruling by the National Parks Planning Committee since that committee came into being in 1953. The site in question was approved by the No. 5 Area Planning Sub-Committee but was not approved by the senior Parks Planning Committee, and appeal to the Minister has been made by Kirkbymoorside Rural Council as a last resort.

The case for Kirkbymoorside Rural Council was stated by the clerk, Mr W Sturdy, who reviewed the negotiations that had taken place. Application was made to the No.5 Area Planning Sub-Committee of the County Council on May 21, 1953, and permission to develop the site was granted. As the land lay within the North Yorks National Park, and as the Planning Officer of the County Council was not satisfied with the decision of the Sub-Committee, the matter was referred to the National Parks Planning Committee.

Grounds of Refusal.

That Committee refused consent on the grounds that development of the site would adversely affect the north-eastern approach to Hutton le Hole; would spoil the open appearance of the village, projecting in front of adjoining properties; and would not fit into the surroundings. Also, the site was marshy and unsuited for human dwellings.

Mr Sturdy said the County Council agreed that a prolonged search had shown that other suitable sites in the village were not available, with the exception of Rook site. The County Council had consequently proposed to recommend the Area Planning Sub-Committee to withdraw their previous objection to that site.

Mr Sturdy pointed out that the Rook site was far less suitable than the one selected, as it was well outside the village and likely to be too low for inclusion in a sewerage system, apart from other disadvantages regarding access road.

Kirkbymoorside Rural Council therefore appealed against the County Council’s decision on October 6, 1953. Their grounds were that construction of two stone-built council houses on the proposed site would not detract from the amenities of the village. The building line would conform to an arc of a circle which forms the frontage of existing houses. The council houses would be visible only for a short distance from the road, and would cover up a view of about 100 yards of rough fencing. Local opinion considered the site in every way desirable.

Site Difficulties

Mr Sturdy referred to difficulties the Rural Council had experienced in trying to obtain other sites, and to the high monetary value which had been placed on a privately owned site. The need for houses for agricultural workers was great, and the farming value of the proposed site was small.

Further points in the Rural Council’s grounds of appeal were that the North Riding County Council Standing Joint Committee proposed to build a police house within a few yards of the proposed site, and that and been passed by the National Parks Committee.

Dealing with the National Parks Committee’s reasons for refusing permission to build, Mr Sturdy pointed out that the No. 5 Area Planning Sub-Committee had considered the beauty of the village would not be adversely affected. As for the erection of houses built in stone being objectionable, the Rural Council contended that stone-built would add to, rather than detract from, the beauty of the village. It was intended to build something worth looking at.

It was pleasing that the County and Rural Councils agreed on the need for houses in the village and that four houses in the next five years and a further four in the next 15 years should be built.

On Common Land

With regard to the proposed site, it was on Common Land, forming part of the Manor of Spaunton. Permission by the Manor Court was already granted in October 1953, to develop the site. Acquisition was not done by purchase but by the exchange of other land. The Rural Council had been offered a plot of land in the village surrounded by common land. This could be purchased to make the exchange and as the site was too steep for building, it would enhance the amenities of the village if added to the common.

There was no suggestion of a precedent being set up by erecting houses in front or behind the building line because a glance at the village would show that it had already been established. Similarly, the village already had various buildings surrounded by commons.

Mr Sturdy drew attention to the fact that the National Parks Committee had the duty of preserving and enhancing national beauty and particularly in areas designated as national parks.

“The Kirkbymoorside Rural Council submit, therefore, that the erection of two houses in natural stone, the design of which will still need the approval of the Area Planning Sub-Committee and presumably the National Parks Committee, on the particular site, would add to rather than detract from the natural beauty of Hutton le Hole and that the County Council has not shown otherwise,” said Mr Sturdy.

Trying for Four Years

Councillor J. M. Leadley, chairman of Kirkbymoorside Rural Council Housing Committee, said his council had been trying for four years to secure a housing site at Hutton le Hole. It was a village of smallholdings which the council wished to retain. To take even a small portion of a smallholding would be to deprive the tenant of half his livelihood.

The Minister of Agriculture and the National Farmer’s Union had for years been working against the taking of good agricultural land for building.

“Here we have a glorious opportunity of retaining our smallholdings and agricultural land, and building houses elsewhere,” he said. “We are as anxious as the Planning Committee or anyone else to preserve the amenities of the countryside, and we do not think this development would in any way detract from the beauties of this village.”

Asked by Mr M. H. Wheeler, Senior Assistant Solicitor for the North Riding County Council, about the need for farm workers’ houses at Hutton le Hole, Mr Leadley said the need was for workers on larger farms surrounding the village. The houses were required more to attract farm workers to the area rather than to satisfy a number of existing applicants.

Grumbling for Years

Councillor C. Moor, Chairman of Hutton le Hole Parish Council, and the village’s representative on Kirkbymoorside Rural Council, said Hutton le Hole had been grumbling for years about its lack of council houses. About four years ago the Parish council sent an ultimatum to the Rural Council that houses must be built, and after the Parish Council had suggested about ten sites, none of which had been found suitable, they told the Rural Council to find a site themselves. As a last resort, it was unanimously suggested by the Parish Council that a common land site be used.

Mr Moor pointed out that when a village was boosted up as the prettiest village in the county, there was an influx of outsiders. The result was that whenever a house was put up for sale someone from miles away bought it for a price which was far above what the farm worker could pay.

The average age of persons living at Hutton le Hole had risen to approximately 70 years, and there was evidence that the younger generation was being forced out by older people going there to retire because they could pay the high prices which the land had acquired.

“As soon as a village is voted a beauty spot scores of people come to gaze at it.”

“We are told we cannot have this, and we cannot do that. I am beginning to think that the voting of a beauty spot means the local inhabitants must stay back in the 12th century,” he said.

Women’s Institute Support

Mrs R. N. Theakston supported the Rural Council’s case on behalf of Hutton le Hole Women’s Institute, and Mr R.W. Crosland spoke of Spaunton Manor Court’s cordial approval of the Rural Council’s suggestion, and the court agreement that it would not detract from the amenities.

Col. H. Slingsby, chairman of Kirkbymoorside Rural Council spoke of the need for cottages to let to farm workers at a price they could afford to pay. The publicised beauty of the village had raised the price of land and property.

The District Valuer had placed a value of £720 per acre on a site which the Council had considered acquiring by compulsory purchase. The cost of £90 per council house for land would have meant a rent increased by 1s. 6d. per week.

“We who live in this district contend that £720 per acre is a ridiculous price. It is uneconomical for building and absurd as regards the real value of land here,” he said.

Col. Slingsby said his council was very reluctant to use compulsory purchasing powers as they considered such a method savoured of the tactics of Hitler and Mussolini.

Rights of Smallholders

All smallholdings in the village carried the right to pasture sheep on the moor and the number of sheep which could be run on the moor was conditioned by the amount of grassland on the smallholding.

Therefore to take away a portion of a smallholding meant reducing the sheep the farmer could keep as well as reducing the size of the holding.

The common land sight proposed was within the building area agreed upon by the County and Rural Councils. It was within the village’s water scheme and its proposed sewage system; it was close to the road, near an electricity supply and had every facility required.

Col Slingsby said the Rook site suggested by the County Planning Committee was outside the building area, but now the Parks Planning Committee was prepared to recommend the Rural Council to put forward another plan of the Rook site despite its having been once rejected by the Area Planning Sub-Committee.

“I have been a member of the Planning Committee since its birth, and a member of C.P.R.E. for many years.

I hope you will take it from me that I would never attempt to push forward anything which in my opinion would spoil the beauties of this village. We consider agriculture is the prime need in this neighbourhood and we think it should be put first. It would be a bad thing if the problematical needs of day-to-day trippers were to be put before the needs of the local farming community,” he said.

Not More Than Two

Asked by Mr Wheeler what application for houses at Hutton le Hole existed, Col. Slingsby said four applications were in hand but others often came in when building started. It would not be practical to build more than two on the proposed site; therefore it would be the Rural Council’s last demand on the site.

In other parishes in the council’s area, there had been larger landowners who had been willing and able to sell small pieces of land but it was different at Hutton le Hole.

Evidence on the need for houses was emphasised by Mr Raymond Hayes, who explained how the number of young people in the village had decreased. When he was at school about 30 years ago there were 60 pupils. Now there were 12 with a few going to other schools. Membership of the Reading Room had dropped from 35 to 16 and the Social Club had half the members it had ten tears ago.

“We must have some more families in this village or it will become depopulated like villages of the Middle Ages.

I am quite in favour of the National Park, but I think they are going too far when they try to stop development of this village community. While there used to be about 40 baptisms a year, some time back, last year there were three. We must have these two houses and more as soon as possible.

Keeping Up With Needs

Mrs Burnley, of Keld Close, Hutton le Hole, said there were 55 houses in the village, of which 27 had neither bath nor indoor sanitation. Most of these could not be modernised. “If we do not start building soon the existing houses will not keep up with the needs of the present population, never mind the future.”

Presenting the case for the North Yorkshire Moors National Parks Planning Committee, Mr Wheeler, senior assistant solicitor for the County Council, reviewed the efforts made since 1950 to find a suitable site which would be agreeable to the Rural Council and would receive the necessary Ministerial clearances, a deadlock was reached.

“I feel that if the Rural Council realising the need for houses, were prepared to exercise the powers Parliament has given them to buy compulsorily they might perhaps by this time have had a building sight.

It has been suggested that this village is rather topsy-turvy, and has just grown up, and that is half the beauty of it. Yet I think a view could be taken that the three buildings now standing on the Common would have been better elsewhere. I suggest there is no need to perpetuate building on the Common for all time, especially now some control can be exercised.

Mr Wheeler went on to say that the Planning Committee agreed with the need to encourage young people to live in the village and to house agricultural workers. They felt that two houses would not be sufficient for future needs. He continued, however;

Claims of Preservation

“There are times when the claims of preservation of amenities and beauty are so strong even to justify the claim of agriculture being over-ridden.” The village and the surrounding countryside were of outstanding beauty to the extent that they had been placed in the boundaries of a National Park. The National Parks Committee had the duty of preserving that picturesque quality. “That is exactly what they are trying to do in this case. I suggest that the Parks Committee may as well not have been set up at all if the agricultural needs are to over-ride their views about the spoliation of this Village.”

“There is a saying that those who live in the forest cannot see wood for trees, and it is possible that the local inhabitants and Rural Council, who are very anxious to provide houses, are looking through blinkers instead of from the broader view that is able to be taken by such a committee as the Parks Planning Committee. I submit there is a very strong case for supporting the view of the Parks Planning Committee of the County Council,” said Mr Wheeler.

Mr S. L. Vincent, County Planning Officer for the North Riding, said the site in question was on Common Land, adjacent to the highway. It was an extension of the village green connecting with moorland to the north-east. If houses were erected on the site they would spoil the character and appearance of the approach by narrowing the entrance, and producing a closed-in effect which the eye would find objectionable. By projecting outwards on to the village green, houses would appear in front of the curving building line formed by existing houses and would appear incongruously sited, out of keeping with other buildings and upsetting the present harmonious composition of the group of buildings there.

If houses were erected on the site proposed, they would, Mr Vincent considered, cause the attractiveness of Hutton le Hole to suffer, and could not be regarded as in the best interest of planning in the locality.

He considered three alternative sites in the village would be satisfactory for development. “I understand that the Rural Council have not considered any of these alternative sites because the owners were not willing to sell. I consider in a village like this, with exceptional beauty and attractiveness, the over-riding of an individual objection would be justified.”

Asset to National Park

Further evidence for the County Council was given by Col. W. S. Cameron, a member of the North York Moors Park Planning Committee, a member of the C.P.R.E., former City Engineer and Planning Officer for Leeds and chairman of the Technical Committee of the West Riding Joint Advisory Planning Committee.

He described Lastingham and Hutton le Hole as assets to the National Park. The openness of the view approaching Hutton le Hole, along the Lastingham road had a peculiar charm, and any building there would break the line of wall and trees which led the eye into the village.

The site was bad on account of its being waterlogged. Col. Cameron said he had looked round the village and noticed seven parcels of land on any one of which six houses could be built. He considered a site lying between the Playing Fields and the highway was an outstanding one. Development there would enhance the appearance of the village street. While being fully alive to the interest of preserving agricultural land as far as possible houses must be built and the matter must be looked at in perspective.

Vote Against Development

Out of 25m. acres of agricultural land in England and Wales, it was estimated that only one or two percent would be required for urban development in the next 20 years. Asked by Mr Sturdy what happened when the Park Planning Committee inspected the site, Col. Cameron thought that the voting was 8 – 2 against developing the site.

Mr L. J. Watson, field officer from National Parks Commission headquarters, said he had considered the site quite independently. From a landscape point of view he regarded it as a thoroughly bad site, you could not have found a worse. How you can say building here would improve amenities I cannot imagine.

“If you put up any buildings there you will wreck the view.” Mr Watson said the North Riding ranked high for its beautiful countryside not only throughout Yorkshire but throughout the whole of England. “It is worth taking a good deal of trouble to maintain that character and beauty. We do not think that housing needs should be met at the expense of losing that character.”

Mr A.A. Falconer, on behalf of the Commons, Open Spaces and Footpaths Preservation Society, said the Society had a tradition for supporting agriculture, but they could not condone the Rural Council adopting part of the village green for building. The magnificent view from Moor Lane would be ruined; therefore they supported the County Council in refusing permission.

Little to Obstruct View

Summing up the case for Kirkbymoorside Rural Council, Col. H. Slingsby urged that houses built on the proposed site would do little to obstruct the view, as they would be seen for only a short distance along the road.

He remarked that many speakers had drawn attention to the beauty of Hutton le Hole, and pointed out that it was planned by local people and not official planners. Local people today were no less appreciative of beauty and no less likely to plan properly.

The need for houses was agreed all round but it had taken four years to reach the present stage and if the appeal was turned down there was no knowing when houses would be built. The question of alternative sites hinged on the inflated value placed on the land.

“You have heard the unanimity of local opinion on the need for these houses and the belief that they would not detract from the amenities of this village. Local people are not likely to sacrifice their amenities and the small amount of trade from visitors that they bring.”

Housing enquiry by Ministry of Housing held in the Village Hall

January 27th 1954