A Government decision to exclude national parks from planning changes that would have changed the face of the Dales has been welcomed.

Ministers had been looking at relaxing planning rules that would have allowed the uncontrolled conversion of barns into houses, which, opponents claim, would have destroyed the landscape.

Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority chairman Peter Charlesworth warned in January that a relaxation of permitted development rights would cause “irreversible harm”.

Now the Government has announced thatnational parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty will be exempt from the proposals.

Mr Charlesworth said: “We are delighted that the Government has listened to the concerns of England’s national parks and others and has modified its proposals, allowing national parks to retain local planning control.

“We’re now going to be getting on with implementing the spirit of the National Planning Policy Framework – to promote sustainable development in the national park.

“This will, no doubt, include the conversion of some barns to houses but only where they’re in suitable locations.

“A draft of the Local Plan is due to go out to consultation in May and, if the policies regarding barns are approved, we will then be able to continue with our commitment to conserve the special qualities of the barns and walls landscape, making better use of one of the national park’s best assets.”

The move has also been welcomed by the Gargrave-based Yorkshire Dales Society. Its chairman, Malcolm Petyt, said: “We are delighted to hear that government appears to have listened and Britain’s most precious landscapes will continue to be protected.

“There are around 4,500 field barns in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and, as an iconic part of the cultural heritage and amazing landscapes of the Dales, these barns need robust protection from inappropriate development..”

But, the CLA - which represents land owners and rural businesses - says the u-turn is disappointing as the reforms would have brought many social and economic benefits.

CLA head of planning Fenella Collins said: “Breathing new life into dilapidated traditional farm buildings by giving them a new use ensures their long term future and underpins the sustainability of rural communities and the businesses within them by providing critically needed new housing.

“The whole countryside should be able to benefit from the reinvigorationZ of rural heritage and better protection of the natural environment.”