THE owners of a Skipton canal side farm are facing having to pull down an almost completed multi-purpose visitor and farm building.

Councillors were equally divided over whether to allow retrospective permission for the 'clubhouse/polling station' building at Niffany Farm, Broughton Road.

It was only refused because of the casting vote of chairman of planning, Coun Richard Welch.

Some at last week's Craven District Council meeting were suspicious about the intended use of the building, which features a kitchen area with serving hatch and large, multi-use room.

They were told the recommendation to refuse it was based on a lack of detail from applicants, Keith and Jeanette Marshall, as to what the building would be used for.

Their agent told councillors that it was part of the diversification of the farm and would be used by occupants of holiday cottages and by people mooring their boats. He also made reference to the Marshalls needing it for visitors to next month's Grand Depart of the Tour de France and fo regular charity events.

Coun Alan Sutcliffe (Cons, Gargrave) moved approval of the buildin which he pointed out had received letters of support from 20 people.

He said it was very much a functional building that would be used in the summer for tourism and in the winter for the storage of farming implements and machinery.

But Coun Lin Barrington (Ind, Bentham) said it looked like a house and that the Marshalls should have some sort of penalty for putting it up without planning consent.

"It looks like a house to me, the French windows don't look like something where agricultural implements could be stored. I think they should have a a large slap on the wrist for not applying for planning permission, but it does not seem reasonable to me to tell them to tear it down," she said.

Coun Welch said there were Tour de France visitor sites near where he lived that had no facilities.

"I just can't see what the large room is for, I think they've been too general about what its going to be used for," he said.

Coun John Kerwin-Davey (Ind, Skipton North), said he was a 'robust' supporter of the building, but was disappointed it had not gone through the proper planning procedure.

"If they had carried out the proper procedure, they would have had the advice of the planning officers and we would have had a proper building," he said.

After the meeting, a council spokesman said: "Taking formal enforcement action to require the removal of the building is a possibility. However, there were clearly varying opinions on the acceptability of the building at the meeting and planning officers have therefore first given the applicant a short time to re-apply and provide further information to justify the building.

"The applicant could also use their right of appeal against the refusal to grant planning permission."